Tracking wildlife in Lao - Day four: Camp 6

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Mr. Xaypanya signals on the map where we went that day while Tony and Arlyne, on the left, and Jim and I, on the right, watch.
Feb. 7, 2007* - Although this was my first transect ever, and our first transect here, it was the team’s second day. We woke up at 5:30 am, had breakfast, and left for the transect just before 7 am. Arlyne and I joined one group, while Tony and Jim joined another. In each group there are generally three people (usually men in this case): the leader and another “observer” (looking out for species) and a guard (just in case).

The idea of the transect is to cover about two kilometers of territory, in a straight line (which is set up on the first day following GPS location and compass bearing), slowly and quietly, listening and looking out for the species. Why five types in our case? According to Arlyne, they chose these five because they generally are relatively easy to either hear or see in this forest but are also some of the most threatened by hunting – a big concern in the NT2 Watershed.

The aim of the survey is, then, to measure the abundance of these five species over each transect, repeating it every four years, for 30-years (the period financed by the Nam Theun 2 Power Company), which will allow the WMPA to track whether wildlife levels have been maintained, increased or decreased (and thereby assess whether protection efforts are working).

The Douc Langur is a type of monkey that is only found in Lao and northern Vietnam.
Ok, so back to what I saw, very exciting! First we saw a Hog Badger, not one of the species we were looking for but apparently one that usually is not very easy to see (of course, I have no idea), and also 20 Douc Langurs. The Douc Langurs are only found in Lao and in Vietnam, and we saw 20! Incredible! They are bigger than a usual monkey, and have a great, large, white beard and red fur on their legs. The rest is black, white and grey.  The white is on the rump and tail, which looks as though they were wearing white underpants.

Now we’re back at camp. We bathed (I froze again) and are sitting by the fire with the Lao villagers comparing notes on what we saw. Pretty soon we’ll have some dinner and go to sleep.

--To be continued

(* This diary was originally published in the World Bank's Lao PDR site)

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