Growing up in Nam Poui, the Thongmixay District of Xayabouri Province in Lao PDR, Phaivanh Phiapalath’s childhood memories consist of fishing in the Nam Sing river, camping, farming, and traveling on elephants. ‘80% of my childhood was spent outdoors within what is now the Nam Poui National Protected Area’, he said.

His parents are illiterate simple farmers and education was never high on their agenda. Yet when Phiapalath decided to seriously pursue his education, his parents supported his decision.

Phiapalath’s hometown, Ban That, is a remote village at the border of Lao PDR and Thailand. It took Phiapalath an hour to walk to his elementary school and a full day over 32 river crossings to get to his high school. Due to the distance, he spent his high school years staying in a bamboo dormitory with grass thatches and a bamboo bed he made for himself.

‘Once a year, my parents would deliver 12 sacks of rice for me on our elephant’,
he said.

Nam Poui is home to both wild and domesticated populations of Asian elephants. Local villagers like Phiapalath’s family have a long history of using elephants in their daily lives and breeding domestic as well as wild elephants.

‘I’ve worked on a dozen other national park management
plans before, but this one is closest to my heart,’
Phiapalath said.

Besides elephants, Nam Poui is also one of the world’s most ecologically and culturally rich landscapes with a variety of endangered species and ethnically diverse communities.

However, despite being declared a protected area in 1993, in the last three decades, Nam Poui’s rich biodiversity has been threatened by habitat fragmentation caused by road construction, logging and harvesting of non-timber forest products, as well as excessive fishing and hunting.

Phiapalath is now one of the most prominent conservationists and primatologist in Lao PDR with extensive experience assessing potential ASEAN Heritage Parks for the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.

As a regional expert in wildlife conservation and the management of protected areas, in 2019, he was chosen by the EU-funded Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in ASEAN (BCAMP) to develop a management plan for the Nam Poui National Protected Area.

The development of the Collaborative Management Plan for the Nam Poui National Protected Area commenced in December 2019 and include a series of field work and consultation meetings with relevant stakeholders such as the communities surrounding the National Protected Area.

On 18 December 2020, the plan was approved by the Director-General of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR.

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