Laos is a land locked country with a northern mountainous region, a central plateau, and a southern wetlands region. Given the monsoon weather of the country, the majority of the habitat here consists of tropical broadleaf trees that lose their leaves in the dry season. Most of Laos is still covered by natural, primary and secondary forest creating habitat for a variety of wildlife. Wild sightings include Asian elephant, pot bellied pig, tiger, sun bear, leopard cat, rhinoceros, kouprey, sun bear, gaur, giant flying squirrel and the newly documented saola. 5 species of gibbon, 4 species of primates, and 5 species of macaque are found here and over 740 species of birds have been recorded in Laos. With such biodiversity, the likelihood of spotting mammals in the wild is still very slim. Laotians have hunt for sustenance for centuries and as such animals are accustomed to hiding from predators (humans). The best opportunities for spotting wildlife are in the protected parks and regions.
Tropical rainforest is found in the Annamite Mountains due to higher rainfall for more months out of the year. Here wildlife enthusiasts can spot a fair amount of endemic species, as well as some newly discovered species.
Tropical pine forest is found in the south of the country and pockets of floodplain and wetlands support woodlands and swamp forests as well as a wide range of biodiversity (particularly in the wet season) along the Mekong River’s route. Irrawaddy dolphins inhabit the Mekong and are often easily spotted in the springtime when the waters are lowest.
While illegal hunting and wildlife trade have threatened the survival of many of these species, forces such as ecotourism and traveler interest are creating a positive financial rationale for protecting the forests and their species for future enjoyment. It is highly recommended that travelers to Laos choose not to buy illegal wildlife souvenirs in the markets throughout Laos to support efforts to prevent further poaching.