Do you know what a dhole is? Did you know that this predator has disappeared from more of its traditional range and faster than the tiger and that it is thus considered by many to be more endangered? The Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area is blessed to still be host to a robust population of this rare canid and it is one of the most crucial locations for the species’ survival in mainland Southeast Asia.
The dhole (Cuon alpinus) is a member of the family canidae like wolves, domestic dogs, coyotes, and jackals. Though small in size (10-20kg) dholes hunt in large packs (often over 10 individuals) making them a competitor of the much larger tiger across its range in India and east Asia. They are one of only three hypercarnivours in the canidae family, meaning that their diet consists entirely of flesh. They have enhanced slicing teeth and reduced number of molars unlike most canids which have dental adaptations for omnivorous diets. This hypercarnivory is associated with their large pack sizes which makes for more efficient hunting of many large prey. This need for many large herbivores and thus very large ranges to feed such large packs is part of the reason the dhole has been so decimated by the habitat loss of the last half century; this in addition to persecution by humans for perceived dangers to livestock. As Nam-Et Phou Louey still contains relatively large tracks of forest and relatively high density of wild ungulates (such as pigs, muntjaks, serow, guar, and deer) the protected area serves as an island of relative safety for the dhole in a land otherwise barren of suitable habitat.
In Nam Et-Phou Louey dholes have been demonstrated as having a strong preference for muntjacs (Muntiacus spp.) and sambar deer (Rusa unicolor), avoiding the much more abundant wild pig (Sus scrofa). This is perhaps due to the dangers posed by wild pigs’ own social pack behavior. They also have been observed to have a negative preference for serow (Capricornis milneedwardsii), possibly due to the serow’s almost exclusive occurrence in rugged upland areas while the dhole prefers the flatter lowland forests. The protection of muntjacs and sambar deer from human market hunting and illegal hunting in the Nam Et-Phou Louey Totally Protected Zone is thus essential for the dhole’s survival in Nam Et-Phou Louey and in Laos itself.
Dholes in Nam Et-Phou Louey appear to hunt in smaller packs than in other areas of their range such as many remaining populations in India. This could be due to smaller packs being necessary for ease of movement and ambush in the dense vegetation of Nam Et-Phou Louey as opposed to the more open environments of India. Maybe this smaller pack size is partially responsible for a greater ease of survival of dholes in Nam Et-Phou Louey, pure speculation.
The area east of Phou Louey mountain with its lush forests, less extreme topography, many salt licks, and high preference by muntjacs and sambar deer is thus a haven for dholes. This abundance along with the dhole’s diurnal (day time) behavior means that is one of the more likely large predators to be seen by visitors on any of the new eco-tourism trekking options offered by the protected area and the local communities; much more likely than seeing any of the very clandestine, very nocturnal cat species of Nam Et-Phou Louey. More, they are not an uncommon capture on the camera traps set up along these trekking routes as the photos here attest to (all taken within the same week in two different distant camera trap locations).
The new trekking tour options vary from 2 to 5 days inside the Protected Area and all tours include camera trap verification. Follow the link to read the trekking tour itineraries: http://www.namet.org/wp/wildlife-trekking-north-laos/
For more about the 2012 dhole study conducted in Nam Et- Phou Louey, its methods and its results, please see the attached article from The Journal of Mammalogy, June 2012 (https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/93/3/627/834260/The-diet-prey-selection-and-activity-of-dholes)
First Aid and CPR Training for NEPL Ecotourism Team
June 9, 2016 – NEPL headquarters
The ecotourism guides of Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area were trained by First Aid Services trainers in first aid and Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The emergency response procedures the ecotourism staff were trained in included procedure for approaching the scene of a medical accident/emergency; diagnosing problems in breathing, airway blockage, circulation, shock, severe bleeding, spinal injury, and strokes; performing the Hiemlich maneuver, CPR, dressing wounds, and lifting and moving injured patients; and procedures for poisoning and snake bites.
The training given by David and Viola Hermanson of First Aid Services was fun, interactive, and hands on. The trainer to trainee ratio was 1 to 3, thus each trainee was able to be actively involved and have their questions answered directly by trainers.
As staff of NEPL frequently spend time in remote areas where access to medical services is limited it is important to WCS to develop a certain degree of medical self-reliance for these staff.
For ecotourism staff who guide visitors unfamiliar with the environment of NEPL NPA, the first aid knowledge is especially important. For this reason WCS/NEPL NPA will continue to train and renew training of first aid and CPR to their eco-tourism staff regularly.
The Nam Nern Night Safari wildlife watching tour is the first ecotourism initiative in the Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area. The project has gained international visibility and won the prestigious ‘World Responsible Tourism Award’ both in year 2013 and 2014.
Recently new trekking tours have opened and involve in the conservation project 12 additional villages from other part of the protected area. Treks go through the core zone of NPA and cross one of the cloud forests in the region. These tours offer rare opportunity to track wild species such as white-cheeked gibbon, leopard, bear and wild dog by using camera traps that are set up along the trail.
New video, produced by our dear partner Tiger Trail Laos, presents the beauty of the Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area and trough the interviews with the ecotourism guides and rangers presents the ecotourism project goals and conservation initiatives.
Thank you Tiger Trail for promoting nature of Laos!
P.S. Small note from the director/producer: “Please enjoy the movie in 4K if your internet is fast enough.”
The Nam Et–Phou Louey National Protected Area hosts a large number of endangered species including the last tigers of Indochina, gaur, Sambar deer, and white-cheeked gibbon. Eco-tours organized by the protected area and Wildlife Conservation Society Laos offer unique opportunity to visit the protected area core zone and try luck to see the wildlife.
When on the Nam Nern Night Safari tour visitors can view rare wildlife as Sambar deer, civets, Slow Loris, and Muntjacs while cruising down the Nam Nern River in the dark with the boat engine turned off (See more – What kind of wildlife can be seen on Nam Nern Night Safari tour?).
A new method to view wildlife has been introduced with the New Trekking Tours – The Nests and The Cloud Forest Climb – which opened in April 2016. These 2 to 5 day adventures inside the national protected area offer a unique opportunity for visitors to see rare wildlife – captured by the camera traps! The camera traps are special cameras that are equipped with a motion sensor that detects moving objects such as wildlife and are commonly used for ecological research to capture images of wild animals when researchers are not present.
The Wildlife Conservation Society Laos together with the monitoring team of the Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area have identified the most appropriate locations, and ten camera traps have been installed along the trekking trails.
When on the trekking tour, visitors will help the protected area guides to check the camera traps and sort the wildlife photos captured by the camera traps. These photos will be shared with visitors as souvenirs, as well as uploaded to the website for further viewing and download.
See the first camera trap wildlife photos captured by the Poung Nyied saltlick nearby the Nests camp!
The 11 day/10 night trip includes visits to Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area and Xam Neua -the home to Laos’ revolution-era caves. The journey traverse iconic Indochinese mountain landscapes that played an important role in the Indochinese wars between the 1950s and 1975.
“The trips are “balanced” so that travellers still get to experience major highlights such as Luang Prabang and Phonsavan’s Plain of Jars. Clients would also participate in rare experiences such as the Nam-Nern night safari in the heart of Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area.” – Jack Bartholomew, Regional Director Indochina, Khiri Travel
“The Nam Nern night safari along the river is an incredible experience,” says Bartholomew. “It brings travellers right up close with nature. The trip is designed to support local communities as well as protecting endangered wildlife.”
Follow the link to read more about the Khiri Travel ‘Back Roads’ Trips
During the Nam Nern Night Safari tour our guide managed to capture this lovely photo of Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as bearcat or as directly translated from Lao language a bear-civet. This vulnerable animal belongs to Viverridae family (as civets, genets, linsangs) and is native to Southeast Asia.
As for many animals, the major threats to the binturong are also the habitat loss linked with forest degradation. In Laos binturongs can be also seen displayed in cage and their skins are frequently traded in Vientiane. In some parts of Laos it is considered as delicacy and is also traded as a food item to Vietnam. Read more about Binturong on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species website – “Arctictis binturong” or visit us in Nam Et – Phou Louey national protected area to see them alive and in their natural habitat.
You might not believe us, but freezing cold weather hit the Southeast Asia by this week the 24-27 January!
In Laos it’s in the Houaphan province where the Nam Et – Phou Louey national protected area is located where the lowest temperature has been detected. The temperature has dropped under zero and frost was covering roads, rooftops and the forest. It’s the first time in the local people’s lifetime that they experience such a cold and see frost.
Still don’t believe? See few photos below:
This freezing cold has been a big suprise to the area, however the weather is slowly returning to normal and the weather forecast predicts warm and sunny weather already in few days.
The Nam Et – Phou Louey national protected area has gained its popularity as being home to the last wild tigers in Lao PDR as well as for many other wild species endemic to Indochina as Gaur, Sambar deer (status: vulnerable), and the White-Cheeked Gibbon (status: critical).
The area displays an outstanding diversity of carnivores that includes:
- Six cat species (tigers, leopard, clouded leopard, Asian golden cat, marbled cat and leopard cat),
- Dhole (status: vulnerable),
- Two species of bear (Asian black bear and sun bear, status: vulnerable),
- 11 small carnivores including civets, mustelids, and mongoose.
Want to see larger list of all the species? –> Click here.
The Nam Nern Night Safari, the 24 hour eco-tour inside the protected area is promoted as “One of the few opportunities in Laos to see rare wildlife”. While visitors can see a range of wildlife during the tours, some species are very difficult to spot as they hear people approaching from a long way off. For example, due to its secretive nature and low numbers, the tiger is almost impossible to spot. This tour is very different from an African safari where lions may lounge by the road while clients take selfies. So the questions you may ask is: What wildlife can I actually see during the Nam Nern Night Safari tour?
The chart above presents the percentage of seen wildlife per species on tours in period of 2010-2015. Almost all our clients (90%) have seen at least few of the animals listed above and the average sightseeing per tour is 5 animals. The most common wildlife to be seen during the Nam Nern Night Safari tour is the rare Sambar Deer, Civets and Monitor lizards. Other common species are Muntjacs, Slow Loris and Otters. Some lucky clients have seen Asian Black Bears, Porcupines, Asian Golden Cat, Tiger Tracks and even a Leopard!
You are sure to see also high number of various bird species especially during day time. Preliminary surveys of the avifauna in the NPA were first undertaken in 1998 (Davidson 1998) and resulted in a list of 299 species. Of these, three species are listed as endangered or near threatened (NT), including Rufous-Necked Hornbill Aceros Nipalensis (VU), the beautiful Nuthatch Sitta Formosa (VU) and Blyth’s Kingfisher (NT) (IUCN 2009). However, the most common species you will most likely see during the tour are: Crested and Common Kingfisher, Red Jungle Fowl, Silver Pheasant, Crested Serpent Eagle, Black Drongo, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Spotted owlet.
The Nam Nern Night Safari is for those who wish to immerse in the heart of protected area and try their luck to spot the rare wildlife in cautious manner to preserve the animal natural behaviour. When doing the night safari, you encourage the local people to protect endangered species as the money received by villagers depends on the wildlife health and on the numbers of wildlife seen by the tourists.
We can’t guarantee that wild animals will hang out by the river to greet visitors, but we can promise you will learn about the wildlife conservation in Laos from naturalist guides and ex-hunters in the middle of the protected area, and if lucky spot wild animals.
See our previous client thoughts on Tripadvisor
Great news! Nam Et – Phou Louey is the first Lao site listed in the Tourism Concern – Ethic Travel Guide!
The Ethical Travel Guide is created by the Tourism Concern a UK based non-governmental organisation advocating ethical tourism. Created in 1989 Tourism Concern is a unique independent charity dedicated to campaigning for ethical and fairly traded tourism.
The purpose of the “Ethical Travellers’ Guide to the World” is to help travellers in making better decisions about where to go, who to go with, where to stay and what to do in accordance with principles of ethical tourism.
The Nam Et-Phou Louey national protected area is selected as responds to all the 3 Ethnical Guide’s criteria:
- Community Well-being,
- Local Prosperity and Social Equity,
- Environmental Protection
The Ethical Guide’s team scored the application under each heading from 1 to 5 on how well we meet each of the three strands of sustainability (social, economic and environmental). The Nam Et-Phou Louey is assessed 12/15!
Support the Tourism Concern to help to promote ethical and fairly traded tourism. The members of the Tourism Concern can receive 10% discount on all the Nam Et –Phou Louey ecotours!
For more information, please follow to the Tourism Concern website/Nam Et-Phou Louey
Lao Ministry of Industry and Commerce is organizing the Vientiane Expo 2015 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on 2 December. The event is hosted in the Lao International Trade Exhibition and Convention Center.
Until 7th December 2015, find information about Nam Nern Night Safari in Vientiane Expo at the European Union stand.
We would like to express our greetings to European Union for supporting the ecotourism development and conservation in the Nam Et Phou Louey protected area.
Find out more on www.laotrade.org.la