Thursday, 5th February 2015
The wildlife of Laos
Laos may be better known as a destination for exploring temples and markets, but it is also home to a wide variety of animals. In fact, the dense green jungle that covers around 80 per cent of the country contains some very unusual creatures indeed. Getting off the beaten track may offer a glimpse of some of them to visitors.
The nation was once known as the Land of a Million Elephants, but this descriptive moniker no longer applies are there are just a few hundred left in the wild. Those keen to see these gentle giants while in Laos often decide to volunteer at the Elephant Village in Luang Prabang where they are rescued from the logging industry.
Tigers were once prevalent in Laos, but the trend for using them in traditional medicines has seen their numbers decimated. There are thought to be somewhere in the region of 200 and 300 left in the country, mainly living in the south.
Other endangered species
The black bear, leopard and Irrawaddy dolphin are all examples of creatures that are not doing particularly well anywhere in the world, but retain small populations in Laos. Catching a glimpse of any of these animals is rare and something that should be cherished.
More common species in Laos
While the endangered nature of elephants and tigers in Laos is sad, there are a number of species that are doing much better within the country. These include the Asian golden cat, the leopard cat, the lesser panda, several types of monkey and the lesser mouse deer. All of these can be seen in a number of locations and should therefore be kept an eye out for on any hike into the jungle.
Hundreds of types of birds live in Laos either all year round or for a few months after migrating from colder climates. It is only recently that scientists have discovered the bare-faced bulbul living in the Annamite mountain range, while the sooty babbler and red-collared woodpecker are also living in this area.
Six venomous snakes can be found in Laos: Malayan viper, green viper, Russell's pit viper, banded krait, common cobra and king viper, though catching them in the undergrowth takes a keen eye. These along with various lizards and frogs give the country a healthy reptile population.
One of the fascinating things about Laos is the fact that not all of the species that live within its boundaries have been discovered, with new additions being put on the list all the time. This makes it an interesting destination for scientists and tourists alike.
Related news stories:
The Laos reading list (6th October 2015)
See the returned Buddha statues where they belong in Laos (18th May 2015)
Experience the wildlife of Laos at the Bokeo Nature Reserve (7th December 2016)
4 ways to keep active in Laos (14th January 2016)
10 reasons to make Laos your next destination (16th September 2015)