Laos camera traps capture tigers

June 22, 2004

NEW YORK (June 22, 2004)-- A recent camera trap survey launched by the Wildlife Conservation Society in collaboration with the Department of Forestry in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) to determine the abundance of tigers has uncovered a surprisingly varied gallery of mammals in one of the country's last remaining wild areas. In addition to finding tigers, the survey's cameras recorded images of clouded leopards, hog badgers, Owston's civet, muntjacs, and other species in Nam Et Phou Louey National Protected Area.

"It's exciting to find that this diversity and abundance still persist in Lao PDR, despite our worst fears that the country's forests had been emptied by the wildlife trade and unsustainable hunting," said Arlyne Johnson, researcher for WCS's Asia Program. "In particular, the presence of species such as gaur, sambar deer and muntjacs is important for tigers that rely on these prey species."

Another goal of the tiger survey is to determine the frequency and nature of large carnivore attacks on livestock in Nam Et Phou Louey, located in the country's northern highlands. Once sufficient data are gathered, Johnson and her collaborators will help devise ways to minimize tiger depredation of livestock in villages within and outside of protected areas.

Also, the team looks to set up management guidelines to protect the forest's ungulate species from overhunting by local villagers, a problem that increases the possibility of human-tiger conflict. One hunting method that appears to be on the rise is the trip wire explosive trap, which has been encountered by survey members at all of the camera trap sites. Set up to opportunistically blow up large animals such as gaurs and tigers, these traps are a threat to humans as well. As a result of these discoveries, government officials are now stepping up enforcement efforts to end the use of trip wire explosives in the protected area.

Overall, the survey has so far recorded the presence of five individual tigers in Nam Et Phou Louey--identified by unique stripe patterns--and 30 other mammal species. "Such a diversity of species, including 19 species of carnivores, means that Nam Et Phou Louey Protected Area remains an important area for tiger conservation in Southeast Asia," said Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, director of WCS's Asia Program.
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Besides conducting wildlife surveys in Lao PDR's protected areas, WCS also works to educate the country's residents about the importance of protecting natural resources through its mobile conservation unit, a joint project with the National University of Lao PDR. The unit delivers environmental information to primary and secondary school children living in communities surrounding the nation's protected areas. The group will also play an important role in the next phase of tiger conservation activities in Nam Et Phou Louey, as the government seeks to educate the public in and around protected areas about the regional significance of the area's tiger and prey populations.

The camera trap survey was supported by the U.S. government's Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund and the Exxon-Mobil-National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund.

Wildlife Conservation Society

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