Tracking wildlife in Lao - Day three: From Tha Phai Ban to Camp 6

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ImageMaking a stop on the way to Camp 6 to have lunch. My favorite was the meng da geo, a gel-like substance in which to dip the rice, except this one was made of crushed, dry insects.

Feb. 6, 2007* - Up at 6 am, pack, enjoy some nice instant coffee Arlyne brought, some sticky rice with chicken left over from last night, and ready to go!

Today was a “point A” to “point B” day, meaning our main goal was to get to Camp 6, sixteen kilometers away from Tha Phai Ban, to join the groups working on the wildlife monitoring (the “transect” teams) – the reason why we’re here!

The walk wasn’t bad at all. We stopped about half way to have some lunch and got to camp by 4:30 pm. The forest is so beautiful, there’s so much energy! We walked through some villages, each with their own map pointing to what part of the protected area they live in and which parts they use for agriculture, to hunt, gather forest products, and which areas they fully protect. I also got to practice my Lao with my WMPA (Watershed Management and Protection Authority, which manages the protected area) and government friends, which was a nice little extra benefit for me!

Once at camp, we set up our tents, had a bath in freezing Nam Che river (I thought I’d lose a toe!) and had dinner of freshly-caught fish and sticky rice. My favorite part was the meng da geo, a gel-like substance in which to dip the rice, except this one was made of crushed, dry insects (much tastier than it sounds!)

After dinner, the twenty-or-so of us that were there sat around the fire and more formally introduced ourselves and why we were here. The group we joined is led by Mr. Xaypanya, who works for the WMPA, and is made up of village men who are hired by the WMPA to conduct the wildlife surveys that are being carried out with the help of WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society). WCS trains the men to conduct the surveys, thereby building their capacity to monitor and manage the protected area, and it also serves as a way to give the villagers a different source of income (in protecting vs. hunting the wildlife… a long tradition across Lao PDR).

The main objective of the wildlife survey is to assess the abundance of five types of species in four different 200 km2 areas in the NT2 Watershed. There are four of these “sampling” areas located throughout the NT2 Watershed.  In each, 120 different transects are carried out by four to six teams of three-persons each, each transect lasting four days (so roughly each group completes 30 transects or so). Each of the four “sampling” areas takes one dry season to complete and then the cycle is repeated, so that each area is sampled once every four years.

Each day, the team walks along a ‘transect’ – a straight line which has been demarcated – and records what they see and hear and when, focused on five types of wildlife: Douc Langur, macaques, Black Giant Squirrel, White-cheeked Gibbons and hornbills.

So tomorrow we will join one of these teams and hopefully will be able to see some wildlife!

--To be continued

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


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