Ecotour developed by Wildlife Conservation Society in cooperation with the Government of Lao PDR and partner communities

Tour provides direct incentives for wildlife conservation by linking the revenue earned by communities with the numbers of wildlife seen

LONDON (November 7, 2013) —
The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today that the Nam Nern Night Safari, an ecotour based in Laos’ Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area in Houaphan Province, won the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Award for Best for Responsible Wildlife Experience at the World Travel Mart in London, England.

The Night Safari is an innovative community-based ecotour developed by the WCS in cooperation with the Government of Lao PDR and 14 partner communities. Longtail river boats take guests upstream in the afternoon, and after a riverside dinner, the boats float downstream at night without engines to spot wildlife including sambar deer and various species of civets. Other species seen include barking deer, otter, tiger tracks, Asian golden cat, dhole, sun bear, python, loris, Chinese serow, hog badger, porcupine, spotted Linsang, wild pig, and macaques. This is perhaps the only place in the country where tourists can see these species in the wild.

Visitors stay overnight in an ecolodge built and managed by the ethnic community and learn about wildlife conservation, medicinal plants, and the history of the area.

The tour provides direct incentives for wildlife conservation by linking the revenue earned by the 14 partner communities with the numbers of wildlife seen and recorded by tourists during each tour. The proceeds directly fund forest patrols, conservation education, schools, and small village-based economic development programs. As wildlife sightings increase, more locals view conservation as an active and profitable partnership. Local villagers also work as guides, boatmen, cooks, and handicraft producers.

With rapid tourism growth in Laos and the region, ecotours like Nam Nern serve as a valuable model for genuine ecotourism products that offer visitors a fun and educational experience while simultaneously benefiting local people in a way that create tangible conservation results through direct incentives.

“This award is a result of the commitment and tireless work of our local staff and 14 partner communities who believe in the importance and value of wildlife,” said Paul Eshoo, WCS Ecotourism Advisor. “Laos is a country with very rich biodiversity and important ecosystems that hold enormous potential for ecotourism. We hope that our model inspires other projects and areas to develop wildlife tourism in a way that provides tangible conservation results and economic benefits through direct incentives for protection.”

World Travel Mart judges said, “Nam Nern Night Safari has been designed to support the conservation of tigers and their prey, as well as other wildlife, by placing a monetary value on tigers and other wildlife for local people. Each reported sighting of wildlife by a tourist results in a financial reward for the villagers, and this includes people who might otherwise poach... The initiative has been very successful in increasing the number of wildlife sightings per boat - they have doubled.”vThe judges felt that this approach should be replicable and would contribute to creating a more positive relationship between local communities, wildlife and tourism.

Development and operation of the Night Safari is made possible through funding support from the Government of Lao PDR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, Tourism Cares, World Bank Global Environment Facility, WinCap, KfW Climate Protection through Avoided Deforestation (CLIPAD), Haas Business School, and other generous supporters.

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The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit