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ASEAN Biodiversity Heroes

Khamphay Xayyalad

Forester devotes expertise to protecting the endangered Eld’s deer

With its regal physique and impressive antlers (for males), the Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii) is a sight to behold. Known to locals as the Ong-Mang, the Eld’s deer is an endangered species found in Cambodia and Lao PDR. In Lao PDR, they are found in Savannakhet’s dry dipterocarp forest.

Unfortunately, illegal hunting and unaware deforestation have impacted the rich biodiversity of the forest, which eventually led to a decline in Eld’s deer population.

The government, international organisations, and locals have initiated actions to conserve the Eld’s deer and its habitat. Khamphay Xayyalad, the Manager of the National Eld’s Deer Sanctuary Areas, is one of the conservationists working hard to protect the endangered wildlife. 

Knowing all too well that fully understanding a species in relation to its habitat is crucial in planning ways to conserve it, Mr. Xayyalad has devoted his time to studying the Eld’s deer.

In 2004, he conducted a survey on rare and endangered wildlife in the Eld’s Deer Sanctuary Areas of 93,000 hectares located in Savannakhet Province under the cooperation of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Between 2006 and 2010, ranger teams were formed under his leadership, and the Eld’s Deer Conservation activities were actively conducted in three villages in Xonbuly District of Savannakhet Province under the support of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). During that time, he was able to mobilize funds from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) under the Lao Environmental and Social Project (LENS) to contribute to the biodiversity conservation projects in Marshlands in Savannakhet Province.

From 2010 to 2013, Mr. Xayyalad extended the Eld’s Deer Conservation to seven (7) more villages in Xonbuly District of Savannakhet Province through agricultural land and forestry area allocation activities under the support of WWF.

Between 2013 and 2015, under Mr. Xayyalad’s close coordination, the administration of two more villages in Xonbuly and Sannamxai Districts received financial support from Small Grant to implement Eld’s deer and watershed forest conservation projects.

From 2016 to 2022, Mr. Xayyalad dedicated himself to implementing the Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Forest Ecosystems of Southern Lao PDR (SAFE Ecosystems Project) in 16 villages with five districts in Savannakhet Province under the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

In 2019, the Provincial Eld’s Deer Sanctuary Areas with 93,000 hectares were consequently upgraded to the national level with extended areas of over 130,000 hectares as a result of positive impacts of the SAFE Ecosystems Project. Some of the outstanding activities of the project included overflow weir construction, clean water supply through well drilling, and local community market establishment.

Mr. Xayyalad’s notable dedications and hard work in biodiversity conservation projects have resulted to a significant and continuous increase in the number of Eld’s deer.

Dr. Soukvilay Vilavong, National Focal Point to the ASEAN Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity for Lao PDR, lauded Mr. Xayyalad, saying “his leadership of the Project of Sustainable Forest and Land Management in the Dry Dipterocarp Forest Ecosystems of Southern Lao PDR (SAFE Ecosystems Project) yielded tangible results such as the significant increase in the number of Eld’s deer from 5-10 deer at the beginning of the project in 2004 to 175 deer at present. Moreover, forests and their biodiversity have improved, resulting in better quality of life for local people living in the project areas.”

“His commitment to biodiversity conservation and advocacy is an inspiration not only to people like me who have had the opportunity to work with him, but also to others who have witnessed how he has been dedicating himself in protecting and conserving Eld’s deer which was listed as an endangered species in Laos, as wells as the conservation of the forests and biodiversity in the National Eld’s deer Sanctuary Areas in Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR,” he added. 

Mr. Xayyalad’s dedication and contributions to forest and biodiversity conservation are bringing back the ecological equilibrium to nature and improving the well-being of the local people. He is a real role model and inspiration to new generations to pursue the nature and biodiversity conservation.

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