In line with Association Anoulak and Nakai – Nam Theun National Park Division (NNT NP) collaboration and joined commitment to biodiversity conservation and advance in scientific knowledge in NNT NP, since 2022, we initiated a pilot project in collaboration with technical partner FISHBIO (USA, Laos) to contribute to the conservation of the Endangered fish species Luciocyprinus striolatus (local name: Paa Kang).
Luciocyprinus striolatus is a species of endangered cyprinid native to parts of Laos and China. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2021). The abundance of the species is thought to be rapidly declining due to various impacts from human activities including deforestation, infrastructure and hydropower development, low water levels, the use of destructive fishing gears, and climate change. The species is believed to be already extinct from China, which makes Laos the only country where the species can be protected. The distribution of the species in Laos remains little known, as well as the threats it faces where the species has been confirmed. There are currently only three locations in Laos where the species has been recorded recently in Oudomxay Province, in Khammouan Province (including Nakai-Nam Theun National Park) and in Bolikhamxay Province.
When we initiated the project, the status of Luciocyprinus striolatus in Nakai – Nam Theun National Park remained unknown, therefore a research and conservation project was urgently needed to ensure the long-term conservation and survival of the species locally.
The overall aim of this project was to increase scientific knowledge and understanding of the distribution, life cycle and threats of this data-poor Endangered species (Luciocyprinus striolatus) in order to conserve and protect the population in Laos with future development of local conservation action plans.
The specific objectives of the projects were:
To conduct an assessment of the threats to Luciocyprinus striolatus in Nakai – Nam Theun National Park watershed
To conduct an assessment of the current presence/absence, distribution, abundance, and ecology of L. striolatus
The project included the following activities:
A total of 25 eDNA samples were collected along three main rivers (Nam Xot, Nam Theun, Nam Noy) in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park in 2022-2023 (Figure 1). 72% of the water samples collected detected Luciocyprinus striolatus (i.e. 18 samples out of total 25 samples). The positive detections of the species came from three different sites: Nam Xot, Nam Theun, Nam Noy (Figure 1).
The main threats identified on the population of Luciocypronus striolatus in Nakai-Nam Theun National Park are:
Luciocyprinus striolatus is under threat at all locations where it has been confirmed to occur in Laos: Nam Pak in Oudomxay Province, Xay Champhone in Bolikhamxay Province and Nakai-Nam Theun National Park in Khammouan Province.
However, Nakai-Nam Theun National Park represents the best location across the world for the long-term conservation of the species.