Posted on 29 October 2019
A new study, titled Documenting the demise of tiger and leopard, and the status of other carnivores and prey, in Lao PDR's most prized protected area: Nam Et - Phou Louey, says that the last of the indochinese tigers in Laos likely died in 2013 or 2014.
The loss of tigers and leopards in Laos’ Nam Et – Phou Louey (NEPL) National Protected Area is a dramatic and heart-breaking result of the snaring crisis sweeping across Southeast Asia. With no evidence of tigers in NEPL since 2013 and leopards since 2004, the news is a grim reminder that, without adequate efforts to address poaching, habitat loss and other threats, we will continue on a downward spiral of population extinctions of endangered species.
Given that the same conditions that caused these losses in NEPL are prevalent across Laos, the research paper authors assume that these two majestic species are no longer present in the country. Field surveys conducted in protected areas across Laos in recent years by research and conservation organizations, including WWF, have not turned up any reliable evidence of their presence. This epitomizes the state of affairs of big cat conservation in the Indochina region of the Greater Mekong, since NEPL was thought to hold the last remaining viable population of tigers in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as of 2010.
If we are to have any hope of sustaining large carnivores in the region, it can only come through a show of political will, public support, increased funding, and field-level actions taken with a sense of urgency. Treating the snaring crisis as an emergency, establishing professional cadres of rangers, effectively managing the protected areas, and combating illegal wildlife and bushmeat trade need to be top priorities in order to, at the very least, safeguard the remaining flagship species in Laos, such as the clouded leopard and dhole.