Eld's Deer Sanctuary

The Lower Mekong Dry Forests, spanning eastern Thailand, southern Laos, northern Cambodia and western Vietnam, form the largest continuous tract of dry forest remaining in mainland Southeast Asia. The landscape is home to a diverse range of threatened species including Eld’s deer (Rucervus eldii), a globally endangered species endemic to the region.
The only known population of Eld’s deer in Laos occurs within the Savannakhet Eld’s deer sanctuary, founded in 2005 in partnership with the Savannakhet provincial government and NGOs.
Threats to the ecological integrity of the landscape in which the Eld’s deer sanctuary is located are escalating. Of particular concern is rapid habitat conversion of the dry forest to make way for a high-intensity agriculture.
Habitat conversion and unsustainable land use is largely driven by poor planning. Often, communities encroach upon the forest, burning vegetation to create livestock fodder. By doing this, the area in which Eld’s deer is free to live and breed is reduced, ultimately meaning a drop in numbers.
To address this, WWF-Laos, in collaboration with the provincial, district and village authorities, is assisting in land use planning, villager-led patrolling of the sanctuary, and the development of sustainable livelihood opportunities to reduce impacts to the deer and its habitat.

One of the long term goals is to cooperate with the relevant government agencies to have the sanctuary gazetted as a National Protected Area, which would lead to stronger protection for livelihoods and the deer. 
With better locally directed measures to conserve the dry forest Eld’s deer calls home, we are hopeful this striking species begins to flourish once again.

Did You Know?

© Phaivieng Vongkhamheng / WWF-Laos
There are an estimated 80-100 Eld's deer in the 93,000 ha Savannakhet Eld's deer Sanctuary, compared to just 6-20 in 2005.
© Ian Lacey / WWF-Laos
The sanctuary's Dry Forest.
© Ian Lacey / WWF-Laos

Driven To Protect

The men to the right are Sanamxai village's conservation team. Sanamxai is very small, isolated settlement inside the sanctuary with just a few households lining its main dirt road. However, the Village Conservation Team patrols the forest every few weeks to look for illegal activity and any threat to the Eld's deer. The deer is part of their heritage and way of life, and their self-proclaimed mission is to protect Laos' last remaining population.
© Ian Lacey / WWF-Laos
Sanamxai's Village Conservation Team.
© Ian Lacey / WWF-Laos