While most Biology major graduates in Lao PDR choose to pursue their career as conservation biologists, Dr. Chanthavy Vongkhamheng opted to apply his knowledge on the field. Since 1995, Dr. Vongkhamheng has conducted numerous wildlife surveys across Lao PDR and provided preliminary research data for many conservation projects in the country, ‘It’s almost impossible to come up with a good solution without having solid data about the problem’, he said.

Dr. Vongkhamheng is currently conducting a biodiversity assessment on two major peatlands in Lao PDR: the Nong Youp Wetland in Vientiane and Beung Naphat Wetland in Champasak Province.

Supported by the EU through Component 1 of the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) programme, the rapid biodiversity-filled survey aims to identify and map existing flora and fauna species in the two peatland areas and assess the level of dependence of local communities.

‘The most challenging part of conservation work is ensuring sustainable use of resources’, Dr. Vongkhamheng said. ‘Especially in Lao PDR, those living in rural areas are still very dependent on natural resources and wildlife for their daily consumption and livelihood’.

The biodiversity assessment of peatland ecosystems Dr. Vongkhamheng is working on is part of several other peatland projects currently being implemented across the ASEAN region. In Lao PDR, SUPA Component 1 is supporting the Government of Lao PDR in mapping the country’s peatlands, building local capacity, and raising awareness of the values and functions of peatlands, strengthening peatland governance, and demonstrating best practices in sustainable use and management of peatland resources

‘I hope in the next five years, all the wetlands in this country can be categorised and protected’, Dr. Vongkhamheng smiled.

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