Planning to protect Eld’s Deer

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Lao People's Democratic Republic


The Lower Mekong Dry Forests have been identified as a global priority for biodiversity conservation. This ecoregion is facing numerous pressures as large areas have been converted to agriculture, and further habitat degradation is arising due to logging, hunting and harvesting of non-timber forest products. Despite these mounting threats, blocks of dry forest have survived, particularly in Savanakhet Province in Lao PDR.

This dry forest area is the last sanctuary for the endangered Eld’s deer ( Cervus eldii, in Lao PDR. A flagship species of the Lower Mekong Dry Forests, Eld’s deer is listed as endangered by IUCN classification and at high risk in Lao PDR (CITES Appendix I). The Eld’s Deer Sanctuary was set up in 2005 and is currently managed in partnership with the local communities. This project aims to introduce integrated spatial development planning (ISDP) to ensure the sanctuary and the surrounding forest are adequately protected and conserved. The focus of these plans will be the needs of local communities to ensure the projects aims can be sustained longer term.


The Lower Mekong Dry Forests Ecoregion (LMDFE) are characterized by low elevation, a strongly monsoonal climate, a high frequency fire regime, a high herbivore biomass and a relatively low human population density. As recently as the mid-20th Century, the LMDFE supported some of the most diverse and abundant megafauna communities in Asia.

In recent decades, however, the Dry Forest Ecosystem and the species within it have come under increasing threat. Rapid development and poor planning throughout the region have resulted in large scale conversion of forest and wetland habitats, and species loss. Within this ecoregion, the Korat plateau in Thailand has been almost entirely converted for agriculture. In Laos, the demand for cash-crops is propelling its conversion, and where it remains as forest, logging, over-hunting, over-harvesting of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) and burning to provide fresh growth for livestock are all leading to habitat degradation. Despite this pressure, Savanakhet Province in Laos has managed to maintain some large blocks of these unique dry forest areas including what is believed to be the last sanctuary for the endangered Eld’s deer, in the country.

A flagship species of the Lower Mekong Dry Forests, Eld’s Deer is a priority species for Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). There is currently a population of 30-40 individuals and it is estimated that the population could increase by about 10% per year with a population of over 100 individuals within the next 10 years.

Although there is habitat remaining, and thus hope for the species, poorly informed and integrated planning at the village, district and provincial levels continues to result in large scale conversion and conflicting land use needs. In many cases, local development plans and concessions are granted without considering the best use of valuable forest resources or the needs and the interests of the villages in the area. Similarly, villagers expand agricultural areas or burn forest to create livestock fodder without consideration of the long term impacts and loss of more valuable resources from their land. The result is unsustainable forest use and conversion and ultimately a continued decline in Eld’s deer numbers.


- The project will support management of the Eld’s Deer Sanctuary in Chonbuly District in Savannakhet Province for the conservation of Eld’s deer.
- Threats to the Eld’s Deer population will be reduced to allow it to recover.
- The project will support pilot integrated spatial development planning (ISDP) and livelihood development to provide new sources of income from natural resources for pilot villages.


The project will pilot Integrated Spatial Development Planning (ISDP) as a tool for reconciling conservation and development objectives for forests in Lao PDR in particular in support of Eld’s deer conservation and management. The ISDP process will guide communities and local government officials through an analysis of local resource use, ecosystem services and biodiversity needs for different areas of the core zone of the Eld’s Deer Sanctuary. This process will help communities to identify the most appropriate areas for agriculture, resource extraction and conservation activities and will use the analysis to develop spatial plans at village level. These plans will be integrated and reassessed to produce one plan for the core zone which covers an area of 2,260 ha and includes 7 villages within the sanctuary.

The province, district and villages will develop and sign agreement contracts for the overarching land use plan, ensuring that conflicts do not arise with provincial planning or concession agreements and securing integration of the core zone plan into the larger Government land use plans at the district and provincial level. The ISDP process will build local understanding and ownership of conservation activities integrating them as a component of local livelihoods and generating support from the people best suited to mange, monitor and protect threatened habitats and animal populations.

The community will then be directly supported in implementation of the Management Plan, and in implementation of priority components of the Resource Use Plan that would directly reduce pressure on the Dry Forest.