Trading goods in Cambodia and Lao
Friday, August 24, 2007 at 13:21
TRAFFIC in Conservation awareness

Lao%20fishing%20camp%20Sarinda%20Singh.gifLocal people regarded fish as their most important natural resource in both Lao PDR and Cambodia © Sarinda Singh / TRAFFIC

Cambridge, UK, 24 August 2007—Two reports recently launched by TRAFFIC reveal the critical importance of the trade in natural resources for rural livelihoods in Cambodia and Lao PDR.

“We asked local people about the kinds of natural resources they traded, what trade routes they used, how the trade varies over time and how important it is in meeting their subsistence needs,” said Sulma Warne, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s work in the Greater Mekong sub-region.

Local people from four villages and 20 camps in Attapeu province, Lao PDR, and seven villages and 9 camps in Stung Treng province, Cambodia, were asked about the fish, other wildlife and non-timber forest products (NTFPs) they use. Information was also gathered from local markets.

In both regions, fish was regarded as the most important natural resource, with people often gathering other wildlife products during fishing activities in Attapeu. Monitor lizards and turtles were also traded in significant amounts, though these were reported by villagers to be declining particularly in Stung Treng.

“Easier access for people is generating greater pressure on natural resources,” Sulma Warne, TRAFFIC

In Lao PDR, 14 globally threatened, and 23 CITES-listed species were observed in trade, whilst in Cambodia, the figures were 12 and 22 respectively. They ranged from animals such as the Red-shanked Douc (Endangered, CITES Appendix I) to reptiles like the Elongated Tortoise (Endangered, CITES Appendix II) to the Giant Barb, a nationally protected fish species in Lao PDR listed in CITES Appendix I.

Rapid economic development in both regions has led to increasing affluence, which is fuelling the demand for an ever-diminishing supply of natural resources. The greatest threat to wildlife at both sites, however, results from improved access. This follows major road construction in Attapeu, and more roads and bridges are under construction in Stung making previously inaccessible sites now much easier to reach, and wild plants and animals easier to extract and transport.

“Easier access for people is generating greater pressure on natural resources,” said Warne.

“In both study areas the volume and diversity of natural resources on offer have all recently increased.”

“Provincial authorities are trying to regulate the wildlife trade...but further action is needed."


Local laws and management practices regarding wildlife trade were examined, and revealed official perceptions of the trade vastly underestimate its extent and hence its significance for both local livelihoods and biodiversity conservation.

“Provincial authorities are trying to regulate the wildlife trade by establishing checkpoints at border crossings and other measures, but further action is needed to control the activities of outsiders and to manage both regions’ natural resources for the long-term benefit of local people,” said Warne.

Trade in Natural Resources in Attapeu Province, Lao PDR and Trade in Natural Resources in Stung Treng Province, Cambodia were published as part of the IUCN-The World Conservation Union’s livelihood initiative, within the Mekong River Basin Wetland Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Programme (MWBP).

For more information on the programme, please contact Sulma Warne, Programme Co-ordinator, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, Greater Mekong Programme, email:

Executive summaries of both reports are available as PDFs. Lao PDR (900 KB) and Cambodia (708 KB). For copies of the full report—either as PDFs or printed copies, please contact

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