Top 20 Most Famous National Parks of Indochina - Phou Khao Khouay National Park, Laos (Part 3)

05-11-2016

Phou Khao Khouay National Park, Laos

So here is the list of the most famous National Parks of Indochina for you to go and enjoy with your nearest and dearest people. Indochina Book of Records (IndochinaKings)  introduce Top 20 Most Famous National Parks of Indochina. Continue the previous part, Board of editors keep going to show for presenting on this website the Part 2 of Top 20 Most Famous National Parks of Indochina - Phou Khao Khouay National Park, Laos (Part 3)

The National Protected Area of Phou Khao Khouay is the southernmost extension of the northern Lao highlands. This mountain range - with its closest point about 40 km northeast of Vientiane as the crow flies - encompasses an area of around 2000 km² and comprises four loosely segregated mountainous blocks with the highest peaks, Phou Ho in the east, of 1671 m, and Phou Sang in the west with 1666 m asl.

Phou Khao Khouay National Biodiversity Conservation Area is a protected area in Laos. It is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) northeast of Vientiane. It was established on 29 October 1993 covering an area of 2,000 km2 extending into Xaisomboun Province, Vientiane Prefecture, Vientiane Province, and Bolikhamsai Province. It includes a large stretch of mountain range with sandstone cliffs, river gorges and three large rivers with tributaries which flow into the Mekong River.

It has mountainous topography with elevation varying from 200 m – 1761 m. The area emerged from "uplifting and exposure of the underlying sedimentary (Indosinias schist-clay-sandstone) complex". Sandstones are also seen spread in layers. Extensive flat uplands with sandstones with hardly any soil cover are also part of the topography of the park.

The park has monsoonal climate with recorded annual rainfall of 1,936.1 mm (with higher reaches recording more rainfall). The mean annual temperature is 26.6 °C with recorded the mean maximum of 31.6 °C and the mean minimum temperature of 21.5 °C.

The forests are evergreen, Shorea mixed deciduous forest, dry dipterocarp and pine type; particularly coniferous forest, of mono specific stands of Pinus merkusii, Fokienia hodgsonsii, bamboo (mai sanod), and fire-climax grasslands.

Animals found in the park include elephants, tigers, bears, 13 pairs of white-cheeked gibbons, langurs, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Sightings of the green peafowl have been reported near Ban Nakhay and Ban Nakhan Thoung, although it was generally once considered extinct in Laos. Conservation management has increased its population.

The area is drained by three major rivers: the Nam Mang in the central and eastern part, the Nam Leuk and the Nam Gnong in the western part. On the northwest lies the Ang Nam Ngum reservoir, the largest artificial lake in Southeast Asia. A much smaller reservoir, the Ang Nam Leuk is located in the centre-north of the National Park and a third, Ang Nam Mang III, in the west.

Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area

All three of these reservoirs are part of huge nation-wide hydro-power scheme the Lao government embarked on to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia. The lakes cover vast formerly forested areas. Even today, wood is taken from the bottom of the Ang Nam Ngum reservoir as it is scattered with teak trees that have hardened over time under water. This wood is even more valuable than freshly cut hard wood timber.

There is covered by a mosaic if diverse vegetation types of various degree of condition such as:

  • dry evergreen dipterocarp forest;
  • mixed deciduous forest;
  • monospecific coniferous forest with associated grasslands 

The latter is found on rough mountain slopes, steep sandstone cliffs, hilly terrains or flat uplands and it is typically drought resistant, while the former is still found close to river systems and moist areas and in relatively pristine condition in the Nam Leuk basin. Due to its proximity to numerous human settlements in its periphery, the park has been and still is prone to widespread exploitation.    

The variety forest types and interspersed open areas offer a wide range of habitats for wild animals, some of them of high conservation value such as the Asian Elephant, Asiatic Black Bear, Sun Bear, White-cheeked Gibbon, and until not so long before, the Tiger. Nevertheless, threats to these animals continue to be a real problem or are even on the rise because of illegal hunting, wildlife trade, and logging. Smaller mammals like bats or squirrels, reptiles, amphibians, and birds can be found there too, namely the much endangered Green Peafowl which once was common all along the Mekong but is now confined, with only few pairs left, to a small, especially protected pocket on the southwestern border of the park. Not just a few species of smaller animals and plants, particularly orchids, have been found to be endemic to Phou Khao Khouay.

The mountain range of Phou Khao Khouay is formed by layered sandstone which is still visible in linear outcrops or on large boulders. Most of the area is displaying the typical tropical red to brown soils which are very poor in organic matter. Richer soils can be found in valleys and gorges where the moisture level is high. These soils support the richest forest type usually called gallery evergreen forest with emergent trees up to 40m in height. Nowadays, extensive areas of such forest are non-existent in Laos anymore as they have long since been converted to wet rice agriculture. Some remaining patches can still be found along rocky, inaccessible streams and in very well protected or sacred sites.

Although the park is an officially declared National Protected Area (NPA), the pressures stemming from human activities are high, often with long-term and irreparable consequences like the extinction of endangered species of animals or plants. In Laos, the status of a National Park or (in a less binding terminology) ‘National Protected Area’ is not comparable with those in Europe or other developed countries. To be able to afford real protected areas, the country still has to undergo substantial economic and ‘good governance’ development and to improve managerial skills to stop the all too common practice of hunting and logging for personal gains, thus posing serious threats to the survival of entire ecosystems.

The promotion of well-planned and implemented eco-tourism, particularly in and close to protected areas offers a chance to raise local awareness for the preservation and protection of natural environments. The more local communities are getting actively involved in tourism projects in their villages, the less they depend on subsistence farming and the collection of NTFPs (Non-Timber Forest Products). It may also be an opportunity to instigate pride, especially amongst the youth, in the nature they have to show visitors from all over the world and which is so important for their own wellbeing. 

Due to the pressures mentioned above it is very difficult to actually see wild animals even on a 2-3 day trip in any NPA. Nevertheless, the local guide will be eager to show you his detailed knowledge on trees, tracks, small animals and insects. The trekking experience is truly one of wonderful nature and Lao culture!

Source: Wikipedia and greendiscoverieslaos


Ngan Pham (Collecting) - IndochinaKings, Image: Internet

 

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