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The Nam Kading National Protected Area (NKNPA) was established along with 20 other National Protected areas (NPA’s) in Lao PDR in 1993. Currently all NPA’s are under the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Implementation of the Nam Kading NPA is carried out by the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO) of Bolikhamxay. Since 2005 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been working with the PAFO to establish effective management of the area. NKNPA became a TEAM Network site in 2009.
The NKNPA covers 1690 km² of mountainous and rugged terrain in central Lao PDR. It is contained entirely within Bolikhamxay province and spans four districts, Bolikhan, Khamkert, Pakkading and Viengthong.
Four main rivers cut through the NPA. The major one, the Nam Kading, which means “Water like a bell”, gives its name to the protected area. This river is a major tributary to the Mekong River, and its catchment area covers approximately 92% of Bolikhamxay Province, approximately 15,977km², and cuts through the NPA flowing south to north. The remaining three rivers (the Nam Muan, Nam Sat and the Nam Tek) cut the NPA into four mountain ranges: the Phou Louang range to the southwest is the longest range; the Phou Ao range to the southeast; the Thalabat range to the northwest; and Pa Guang range in the northeast.
The rugged geology is the result of eroded sedimentary uplift and is predominantly sandstone. Other important features of the park include large rock outcrops and rugged boulder strewn canyons. Altitude in the park ranges from Phou Pa Paek (1514m) to 138m at the point where the Nam Kading exits the NPA. Although 76% of the NPA is below 800m, the park has a very steep topography.
Like much of Southeast Asia, the climate of central Lao is influenced by the southwest and northeast monsoon air masses. Bolikhamxay Province is most strongly influenced by the SW monsoon from April to October that brings 90% of the annual precipitation. The mountain ranges affect local precipitation, with abrupt changes in rainfall between leeward and windward sides. Mean annual rainfall ranges from 2000 to 3300 mm; however, climatic variability results in recurrent droughts. Temperatures in the NPA may drop to 5° C during December to February in high altitude areas, but average monthly temperatures vary between 20° and 30° C for the province.
The area has only recently been under effective management. Major activities now being implemented involve effective law enforcement, awareness raising and education activities, wildlife monitoring and research, general management and community-based ecotourism.
The NKNPA is predominantly mixed deciduous forest characterized by the presence of Lagerstroemia sp. There are small areas of pine forest at high elevations and characteristic rock outcrop habitats. Remarkably 84% of Nam Kading NPA is classified native forest, 15% shows signs of human alteration and includes re-growth, woody-shrub land and/or grassland. The NKPNPA provides an important watershed and fish breeding ground and forms a habitat island between the northern Phou Khao Kwai NPA and the southern Nakai Nam Theun NPA.
The Nam Kading NPA is home to at least 43 species of mammals and 234 species of birds (WCS wildlife database). Initial surveys found that the NKNPA is a highly important wildlife area with remaining populations of highly endangered animals such as tiger, elephant and gaur. Follow up surveys by the current management in December 2006 and systematic camera trapping in 2007-08 confirms there are still remnant populations of these key species, although populations’ occupancy is low. Line transects focused on diurnal arboreal species, and the results from systematic camera trapping captured 34 different species of mammal.
However, absent from the results were several of the larger terrestrial mammals reported as present in the NKNPA by other surveys. These include Sambar Deer (Cervis unicolour), Tiger (Panthera tigris), Guar (Bos gaurus) and Leopard (Panthera pardus). It is expected that these animals are still present in the NKNPA but in very low densities. Signs of these species were still found by other field teams (NKNPA Unpublished data) and camera trap photos taken of the animals just outside the boundary of the NPA.
Reptiles and amphibians have not been surveyed systematically within the NPA; however casual collections by WCS personnel have recorded nine species of these two animal classes. Similarly, the avifauna of the NKNPA has also lacked extensive surveying efforts.
Aquatic resources in the protected area are highly diverse and an important source of local subsistence and domestic trade. Data from Theun Hin Boun Power Company (THPC) shows a decrease from 102 species surveyed in 1992 to 68 species surveyed in 2003 after the construction of the THPC dam in the upper reaches of the NPA. Eleven species of fish are considered endemic to the Nam Theun/Kading Basin; all are found in the upper tributaries not the main stream.
The NKNPA is entirely within Bolikhamxay Province in central Lao PDR. It is around 190km east from the capital of Vientiane and easily accessible by road (around 3.5 hours) along Route 13 south. You can fly to Vientiane directly.
Inside the NKNPA itself there are no roads making it naturally one of the most pristine of Lao’s 21 NPA’s. Hikes and research are permitted into the area from the Nam Kading Research and Training Centre which is accessed by boat from Ban Phongam around 185km from Vientiane.