Laos: Support from WCS, AFD to help communities to conserve largest wetland in Savannakhet

Vientiane, Feb 15 (Vientiane Times/ANN): Representatives from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and its partners recently monitored the progress of the Ecosystem Conservation through Integrated Landscape Management (ECILL) at Savannakhet province’s Xe Champhone Wetland Complex.

On February 3-5, the national director of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Julie Gabet-Ouahioune accompanied by Volasith Sivongdao, Deputy Director of Savannakhet Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO), and Mrs Manoly Sisavanh, Deputy Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) visited Savannakhet’s Xe Champhone Wetland Complex to monitor the progress of the European Union (EU) and AFD financed for (ECILL)” Project in Laos.

The delegation commended the first-year implementation progress made by PAFO and WCS, in collaboration with local government and surruonding communities, towards the development of the Participatory Wetlands, Landscape, Landuse, and Livelihoods Assessment, Mapping, and Planning (P-WELLLAMP) in Champhone District.

The delegation also learned about the community-led Siamese crocodile (C. siamensis) head-starting program that aims to recover the C. siamensis populations at Tansoum Village.

As part of this head-starting program, eggs of C. siamensis collected from the wild are artificially incubated and reared in captivity for about two years until attaining a total length of 75–100 cm.

The offspring are then released into the Xe Champhone wetland managed by community members as a conservation or “sacred” zone where wildlife (including crocodiles) are protected from hunting.

Since 2008, the WCS has worked on wetland landscape focusing on developing Village Conservation Teams to monitor the crocodile’s head-starting program. To date 65 C. siamensis individuals have been successfully incubated, reared and released back to the wetland in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

The Siamese crocodile is known for being shy and elusive and staying away from humans. The local communities of Xe Champhone have protected these crocodiles for centuries under traditional beliefs, while they were diminished by hunting across most of South-East Asia.

Through the interventions in Xe Champhone, EU/AFD ECILL project will directly address three of the five strategies identified in Laos’ National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) to meet the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), while also supporting Lao PDR’s commitment to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, through its diverse, integrated activities promoting wise-use of Wetland resources and protection of Wetland biodiversity and ecological functions.

The Xe Champhone Wetland Complex is home to an abundance of aquatic biodiversity that support the livelihoods of more than 30 communities, as well as one of the world’s last remaining populations of the critically endangered Siamese crocodile, endangered turtle species, and wetland birds. - Vientiane Times/ANN
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