By MICHAEL CASEY,AP Environmental Writer AP – Thursday, February 7
BANGKOK, Thailand – Laos has agreed to improve protection at one of
its key tiger reserves, a conservation group said Wednesday, in a
sign the country is recognizing the need to crack down on poaching
and other threats to the animals.
Helped by US$250,000 (�170,800) from the British conservation group
Panthera Foundation, the impoverished country has signed an agreement
with the Wildlife Conservation Society that will fund the training of
rangers and education of villagers to reduce the killing of tigers in
the 4,000 square kilometer (1,545 square mile) Nam Et-Phou Luey
reserve in northern Laos.
“This is quite a landmark for Laos,” said Arlyne Johnson, the WCS
country program co-director. “I think it demonstrates political will
on behalf of the Lao government to take tiger conservation seriously.”
Laos’ forestry and agriculture ministries signed the 18-month
agreement earlier this month, under which about 70 local villagers
will be employed in the park and a campaign will be developed to
educate villagers about the benefits of protecting the wildlife.
“This will really be helpful in our conservation activities in Nam Et-
Phou Luey,” said Phonesane Vilaymang, deputy director of the Houaphan
Provincial Department of Agriculture and Forestry Office, which
includes the park. “On behalf of the provincial government, we will
do our best to conserve the wildlife and create a boundary between
the villages and the park.”
Characterized by mixed evergreen and deciduous forests, the Nam Et-
Phou Luey reserve is one of 20 protected areas in Laos. It is home to
20 tigers but Johnson estimates it could hold five times that number.
Like many reserves in the impoverished country, Nam Et-Phou Luey has
had little money to stop hunters from brazenly killing tigers and
their prey. Tiger meat is sold locally to restaurants, while their
skin and bones are sent to China to supply the traditional medicine
and souvenir markets.
It is a trend reflected in much of Asia, where tiger numbers have
plummeted from 100,000 more than 150 years ago to about 5,000 today.
From India to Indonesia, tigers are mostly under threat due to
habitat loss and poaching.
Johnson said she is hopeful the new initiative will serve as a model
for other countries struggling to crack down on tiger poaching.
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