Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR or Laos) is a landlocked country of 236,800 km² located in the Indochinese peninsula. Laos has a population of 6,256,197 and a population density of 26 inhabitants per km², the lowest of its neighbouring countries, though its growth rate of 2.2 % is one of the highest in Southeast Asia.
The first explorations of the forests of Laos date back from the French colonization (1887? 1953; Stuart-Fox, 1995) (e.g. Thomas, 1927; 1929; Osgood, 1932; Delacour, 1940; Bourret, 1942; 1944; Sayer, 1983). Some other anecdotal remarks on flora and fauna of Laos can be found in narratives of hunters or explorers traveling through the regions (e.g. Garnier, 1869; 1885; Bassenne, 1912; Legendre, 1936; Cheminaud, 1939; 1942; Fraisse, 1955). Some other studies following this period are Deuve (1972) and Chazée (1990). Some of these accounts however encompass various errors regarding distribution and identification of species (Duckworth, 2008).
Endangered large?antlered muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) discovered in Laos in 1994 following its description in Vietnam (Duckworth et al., 1994; Evans and Timmins, 1995; Tuoc et al., 1994); Data Deficient Annamite muntjac (M. truongsonensis), endemic to Laos and Vietnam, first discovered in Vietnam (Giao et al., 1998) and later discovered in Laos with camera?trap images (Timmins et al. 2008); Data Deficient Annamite striped?rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi) discovered in Vietnam and Laos in the 1990s (Surridge et al. 1999, Averianov et al. 2000), which remains little known. In 2009, a rare new bird species was described, Least Concern bare?faced Bulbul (Pycnonotus hualon) inhabiting limestone habitats of Laos (Woxvold et al., 2009).
Numerous species of global, regional or national significance occur in Laos. Over 60 Globally Threatened animal species occur in Laos (Duckworth et al., 1999) including, to name a few, several wild cat species (Vulnerable marbled cat [Pardofelis marmorata], Vulnerable clouded leopard [Pardofelis nebulosa], Near Threatened Asiatic golden cat [Catopuma temmincki], Near Threatened leopard [Panthera pardus], Endangered fishing cat [Prionailurus viverrinus] and Endangered tiger [Panthera tigris] most likely the last viable (if small) population of tigers in Laos, and one of the most important of Indochina may only be found in Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA, northern Laos; Johnson et al., 2006); Endangered Asia Elephant (Elephas maximus); Critically Endangered Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis); several primate species including six gibbon species (notably Critically Endangered black crested gibbon [Nomascus concolor] and Critically Endangered Northern white?cheeked gibbon [N. leucogenys]), Endangered red?shanked douc (Pygathrix nemaeus), 3-5 langurs, macaque and loris species; Vulnerable Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and Vulnerable sun bear (Helarctos malayanus). Laos is also renowned for its bird species diversity with approximately 800 different species, notably the country holds populations of Endangered white?winged duck (Cairina scutulata), Near Threatened crested argus (Rheinardia ocellata), Vulnerable rufous?necked hornbill (Aceros nipalensis), Endangered green peafowl (Pavo muticus).
Flora in Laos is one of the least studied compared to its neighbouring countries. Historical studies took place in the 1800s, but virtually no further research was carried out between the 1940s and late 1980s (Inthakoun and Delang, 2008). More research started in the 1990s (reviewed in Inthakoun and Delang, 2008) many of which focused on medicinal plants and non?timber forest products. The two major and most recent checklists of the flora of Laos were published by Newman et al., (2007) and Inthakoun and Delang (2008).