Saving Species and Storing Carbon in Laos

The lush Annamite Range, a mountain chain spanning the Laos-Vietnam border in Southeast Asia, is rich in beauty, biodiversity and carbon. Once inhabited by elephants, tigers and rhinos, human activities—particularly deadly snaring practices—have voided these forests of many large mammals and left others at the brink of extinction.

Xe Sap National Protected Area (NPA) may be the last place on Earth where one of these rare species could still be found—the elusive Critically Endangered Saola. Also known as the “Asian Unicorn” because it is rarely seen, this species was discovered in 1992, making it the first large mammal new to science in over 50 years. In September 2013, an adult Saola was photographed by a camera trap in the Hue-Quang Nam landscape of Vietnam, directly across the border from Xe Sap.

Xe Sap NPA extends 377,000 acres across the Central Annamite Mountains, a biodiverse treasure in the heart of the Indo-Burma hotspot. This moist forest ecoregion shelters some of the world’s highest concentrations of endemic species.

In addition to the Saola (CR), other threatened species here include the Large-antlered Muntjac (CR), Red-shanked Douc Langur (CR), Vietnamese Crested Argus (CR), Owston’s Civet (EN), Dhole (EN), Northern Yellow-cheeked Crested Gibbon (EN) and the Greater Slow Loris (EN).

This fragile landscape is threatened by an increase in slash-and-burn agriculture, gold mining, illegal logging and small- to large-scale hydropower projects. These activities have led to the degradation of much of the remaining habitat and created another peril for wildlife living in the Annamites.

In addition to the mysterious and biodiverse species who call this home, the beauty of this mature secondary and wet evergreen forest is underscored by the massive amounts of carbon stored here. Rainforest Trust and our partner, WWF-Laos, are working to expand the Xe Sap NPA by 118,221 acres. Once protected, these acres will increase this contiguous, high-integrity forest for species by 25% and safely store 19,659,596 metric tons of CO₂ equivalents (equal to 4,236,038 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles driven for one year).
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