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What should be done to stop illegal hunting and the wildlife trade?
Despite a raft of regulations in place to prevent the illegal hunting and sale of protected and endangered animal species, reports of violations are filed almost every day. Vientiane Times asked members of the public what they think about the current status of wildlife preservation and what should be done to protect animals, their habitat and the environment.

Ms Bakham Kavikham, a resident of Huaphan province: Wild animal populations are rapidly declining across Laos. This is mostly because of the loss of habitat and the fact that hunting is commonplace. Animals are captured or killed either for consumption by rural families or to sell to traders. Unfortunately, the wildlife trade is growing, as the law is poorly enforced and there is increasing demand for certain species and their body parts. We all know it’s illegal to hunt and sell protected species, but their meat is on sale at many markets in both rural and urban areas. The authorities should crack down on the wildlife trade by penalising hunters and traders. In addition, I urge people not to capture animals or fish that are pregnant or breeding, because this is another cause of dwindling populations.
Ms Keota Vannasarn, a government official in Xekong province: I have heard about hunting weapons being seized and disposed of by police, as well as penalties being meted out to hunters and people who sell the meat of protected species. Even though the authorities are taking steps to tackle this problem, the wildlife trade seems to be thriving. I think this is largely because many rural communities have to hunt and kill animals in order to survive – it’s how they’ve always lived as they have no other livelihood. If possible, we should encourage them to take up other occupations and raise their understanding about the importance of wildlife and the need to protect and preserve wild animals. 

Ms Phoutsady Thepphavong, a student in Xayaboury province: Well, wild animals are an important part of many people’s lives because they provide nutritious meals and are a source of protein. Recently, their numbers have greatly reduced. This is not because there are more people in Laos but because we don’t care enough about the environment, and animals are being indiscriminately killed. Wild animals have to contend with many man-made predicaments, and many species have or will disappear because the laws protecting them are not enforced effectively.

Ms Chanthaphone Ounkhamthip, a resident of Vientiane: These days it’s rare to see wild animals such as forest pigs, deer and water buffaloes in our forests, but we can see them in some markets even though it’s illegal to sell them. I know someone who went camping in a national protected area on a special trip arranged to observe wild animals, but all they saw were some squirrels and a few deer. We should get serious about illegal hunting and formulate effective measures to stop the hunting and sale of wild animals and make people fear the law. The situation is better where aquatic species are concerned, especially fish, because they are protected in certain areas of rivers and ponds, and in the south the use of bamboo fish traps has been banned. But the authorities should stop the use of electrical devices to kill fish in large numbers, as this is still common in urban and rural areas.

Mr Khamphouvong, a government official in Hadxaifong district, Vientiane: The authorities seem to be paying more attention to forests and swamps and trying to stop trees being cut down, as these areas provide habitats for thousands of animal species. Although the hunting and killing of certain species is illegal, I often see many kinds of animals on sale in markets, including endangered animals. A quick search on the internet reveals the extent of the illegal wildlife trade, which is rampant in Laos and some neighbouring countries. Aquatic species are also affected by harmful chemicals that run off from plantations into rivers and streams or are discharged by factories. And fishermen use illegal methods to catch fish, such as electrical devices, poison and even explosives. All of this must be stopped by the authorities.

 By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update September 18, 2023)

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