a1 Box 4340, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
a2 11A Yeoman Lane, Bearsted, Maidstone, Kent ME14 4BX, UK.
a3 25 Cradley Road, Cradley Heath, Warley, West Midlands B64 6AG, UK.
a4 Vene Vongphet, Centre for Protected Areas and Watershed Management, Forestry Department, Box 2932, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
The Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) has long been a white spot on maps depicting national parks and similar protected areas. This changed dramatically with the official declaration in October 1993 of 18 protected areas covering over 10 per cent of the country's land surface. Among the countries of South East Asia Lao PDR now ranks among those with the highest proportion of land under legal protection. The political climate seems favourable and additional areas may still be added. System planning and, increasingly now, the management of declared areas has been carried out by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Division of the Centre for Protected Areas and Watershed Management (PAWM), Forest Department, with funding by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and technical support from IUCN-The World Conservation Union. Some of the most vulnerable species, such as the Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus, may already be extirpated, but most species and ecosystems have good prospects of survival if management of the reserves and some wider conservation initiatives can be implemented.