Creating direct incentives through ecotourism for protecting wildlife

Tony Deary / WCS
Published: 26 October 2015
Last edited: 02 October 2020
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The Nam Nern Night Safari is a tour in Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA, Lao PDR, designed to give communities incentives to reduce illegal hunting and sale of endangered species. Tourism has been initiated as a measure to reduce threats in addition to enforcement and outreach activities. Incentives are created through a contract signed with the 1,186 families of 14 forest-edge communities, which ensures income to families for every tourist and wildlife sighting on the tour.


Southeast Asia
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Freshwater ecosystems
River, stream
Temperate deciduous forest
Access and benefit sharing
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Cities and infrastructure
Ecosystem services
Gender mainstreaming
Indigenous people
Local actors
Other theme
Human health and well being, species and extinction
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Poor monitoring and enforcement
Poor governance and participation


Nam Et-Phou Louey NPA, Lao
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illegal sale of wildlife and hunting with illegal weapons Hunting for sale of wild meat for domestic and international markets is endangering Laos’ biodiversity. The project has sought to give communities clear and direct incentives to reducing threats to key species by reducing the number of people entering the totally protected zone (TPZ); hunting with illegal weapons (guns and steel traps and snares); and illegal sale of wildlife.


14 communities surrounding the tour area (the Nam Nern Sector of the protected area) that includes 1,186 families, National Protected Area management and district administration as well as the tourism industry in Houaphan Province

How do the building blocks interact?

The building blocks work quite simply together. The first step is creating a concept and results chain. This is done through an open discussion that focuses on how actions will result in reducing threats. The second step is creating the benefit sharing contract(s), which is based on the overall concept but is narrowed down to the essential elements that can be easily understood by the target audience, the community. The third step involves everything related to developing, marketing and selling your product. The final step is regular, adaptive management, namely making changes and improvements to the contract(s) as needed.


There are three measures used for determining project impact. The first is the average number of wildlife sightings by tourists plus income earned by communities. If income to communities increases, wildlife sightings by tourists should also increase. In the first four years, income and wildlife sightings increased overall. However, increases in wildlife sightings alone do not indicate a positive impact, as more tourists along the river might only serve to scare hunters into other areas, with no actual reduction in threats. So, threats are also monitored. The ecotourism contracts create negative incentives for breaking protected area regulations through reductions in communal and individual benefits. As a result, the project was able to reduce hunting infractions from six to zero in the first four years. The project also compared total hunting signs (threats) between patrol sectors to determine the comparative advantage of a sector with tourism versus those sectors without. The project was able to demonstrate a flat-lining of threats in the tourism sector, in contrast to the average increases of threats found in non-tourism sectors


Khampaeng is one of twenty guides and boatmen from Son Koua Village working on the Nam Nern Night Safari. He uses his expert knowledge of the forest to point out wildlife to tourists and interpret medicinal plants and tell ethnic folktales. He was in the first group of villagers trained as guides in 2010. All members of the tourism service groups are required to sign contracts with the national protected area pledging that they and their family members will not illegally hunt or sell wildlife and that they will forfeit their tourism job if they do. Hunting has been quite common in the area for generations and has been a central part of the culture and way of life. So, adhering to the contract is quite a challenge for many, especially those with extraordinary hunting skills, like Khamphaeng. The temptation to hunt for the guides is especially great when seeing animals on tour, having to fight back the hunter’s reflex, passed down to them by their fathers and grandfathers. Many of Khamphaeng’s close friends trained in the first group of guides chose to continue hunting, despite the contract. This created enormous peer pressure on him, being one of the most skilled hunters in the group. But, Khamphaeng chose not to, ignoring the requests and temptations offered by his friends. Through his perseverance he is the now one of the senior guides on the tour, helping to train new guides. Many of his best friends are no longer working as guides having broken the contract. This has built trust in his fellow villagers so much that they recently elected him to be the village chief—quite an accomplishment for a guy at his young age. Khamphaeng has also saved up some of his tourism income and built the first guesthouse in the village. He is now one of the main spokemen for the project and a model for the village.

Contributed by's picture

Paul Eshoo Wildlife Conservation Society

Other contributors

Paul Eshoo
Wildlife Conservation Society
Arlyne Johnson, PhD
Wildlife Conservation Society
Troy Hansel
Wildlife Conservation Society
Vene Vongphet
Wildlife Conservation Society
Phouvanh Phetmixay
Wildlife Conservation Society
Bouathong Xayavong
Wildlife Conservation Society
Daovanh Senghalath
Wildlife Conservation Society
Sivilay Duangdala
Wildlife Conservation Society
Khamkeo Syaiyakhamthor
Wildlife Conservation Society