Conservation officials from Nakai-Nam Theun National Park have come out with a new report stating that over 1,000 illegal encroachment attempts were made to enter the park from the provinces of Khammouane and Bolikhamxay in 2022.
Lao Youth Radio reports that the Acting Head of the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park, Mr. Sythud Phimmachanh, said at a government meeting that 1,079 encroachment attempts were detected by the park’s patrol and law enforcement teams in 2022 and two people were arrested for the same.
During this time, authorities seized hunting tools and deforestation machinery from 192 people and counseled 181 others to not practice illegal logging, but 76 people escaped arrest. Communities in the area have limited access to education, healthcare, and markets, which is why they turn to the national park to earn a living.
Despite the efforts of 44 authorities patrolling and inspecting the vast area for 12 to 15 days a month, the locals still managed to enter the park illegally, according to Mr. Sythud Phimmachanh.
Mr. Sythud said that many families in the area struggle to grow crops on their land and they enter the park to hunt and sell wild animals to earn a living. Authorities estimate that around 8,000 people live around the park’s 427,770 hectares in the two provinces of Khammouane and Bolikhamxay in 2022.
The encroachment of Nakai-Nam Theun National Park became notably apparent in March of this year when locals started slashing and burning trees in forest areas to grow cassava plantations which are currently in high demand.