In December 2019, we visited the first site as part of an otter survey that we will conduct over the next few months across Nakai – Nam Theun National Park. This survey is based on the collection of fecal samples from otter species (called ‘spraints’) from which DNA will be extracted. This project is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Worata Klinsawat from the Conservation Ecology Program, School of Bioresources and Technology, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Thailand, where samples will be analysed.
This project has the following objectives:
The distribution of Asian-ranged otter species remains very little known. In Laos, three species have been confirmed to occur: Asian Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinereus, Smooth-coated Otter Lutrogale perspicillata and Eurasian Otter Lutra lutra (Duckworth, 1997; Dersu, 2000; Duckworth et al., 1999; Timmins & Evans, 1996; Coudrat et al., 2014).
Given the global conservation status of these three species – with declining populations throughout their range (Ruiz-Olmo et al., 2008; Hussain and de Silva, 2008; Hussain et al., 2008) due to a continuous loss of habitat, decreasing number of their prey and hunting for the pet trade and pelt trade – new information is urgently needed on their distribution, habitat use and local threats in order to adopt species-specific and site-based management and conservation strategies.
In Nakai – Nam Theun National Park, at least two otter species have been previously reported from the area: Asian Small-clawed Otter and a larger unidentified otter species (see Duckworth, 1997; Dersu, 2008; Timmins & Evans, 1996). Tracks of otter spp were commonly observed along large rivers in the area in 1996 (Timmins & Evans, 1996), and surveys in the lowlands (<500 m a.s.l.) western part of the national park (Nakai plateau) in 2006-2008 recorded at least two species of otter (largely on the basis of signs) in association with most river stretches surveyed (Dersu, 2008), and several tracks (unidentified species) were observed along the Nam Theun in 2012 (Coudrat, 2012). The paucity of information available on otter species in NNT NP (and across Laos and the rest of their range) combined with the current threats they face globally call for this urgent study. NNT NP is probably of, at least, regional importance for its otter populations (Coudrat et al., 2014). In 2016, we conducted a preliminary survey along the Nam Mon and only recorded Asian Small-clawed Otter (Coudrat, 2016). Further surveys are therefore necessary.
Coudrat, C. N. Z., 2012. Wildlife surveys in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area 2011-2012. Final report to the Watershed Management and Protection Authority. Ban Oudomsouk, Nakai district, Lao PDR. 194 pp.
Coudrat, C. N. Z. Preliminary camera-trap otter survey in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area Nov-Dec 2015 – Final report. Project Anoulak, Lao PDR.
Dersu, 2008. C880: Wildlife Program Phase 1. Baseline Inventory. Wildlife and Habitat Studies of the Nakai Plateau. Dersu and Associates for Nam Theun 2 Power Company, Vientiane, Lao PDR. 355 pp.
Duckworth, J. W., 1997. Small carnivores in Laos: a status review with notes on ecology, behaviour and conservation. Small Carnivore Conservation, 16: 1–23.
Duckworth, J. W., Salter, R. E. & Khounboline, K., 1999. Wildlife in Lao PDR 1999 Status report. IUCN, Wildlife Conservation Society and Centre for Protected Areas and Watershed Management, Vientiane, Lao PDR. 275 pp.
National Assembly Lao PDR, 2007a. Forestry Law. Government of the Lao PDR, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
National Assembly Lao PDR, 2007b. Wildlife and Aquatic Law. Government of the Lao PDR, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
National Assembly Lao PDR, 2008. Lao wildlife hunting regulation. Government of the Lao PDR, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Nooren, H. & Claridge, G., 2001. Wildlife trade in Laos: the End of the Game. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Amsterdam, NL.304 pp.
Hussain, S.A. & de Silva, P.K. 2008. Aonyx cinerea. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 January 2014.
Hussain, S.A., de Silva, P.K. & Mostafa Feeroz, M. 2008. Lutrogale perspicillata. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 January 2014.
Robichaud, W. G., Sinclair, A., Odarkor-Lanquaye, N. & Klinkenberg, B., 2009. Stable forest cover under increasing populations of swidden cultivators in central Laos: the roles of intrinsic culture and extrinsic wildlife trade. Ecology and Society, 14: 33–60.
Ruiz-Olmo, J., Loy, A., Cianfrani, C., Yoxon, P., Yoxon, G., de Silva, P.K., Roos, A., Bisther, M., Hajkova, P. & Zemanova, B. 2008. Lutra lutra. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 January 2014.
Timmins, R. J. & Evans, T. D., 1996. Wildlife and Habitat Survey of the Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Area. Wildlife Conservation Society, Vientiane, Lao PDR. 59 pp.