Habitat: Evergreen, mixed deciduous, dipterocarp forest. Hin Namno is an area where the Central Indochina Limestone meets the Annamite Chain. As a result, this area has prominent limestone escarpments and many caves, including a 5 km cave along the Xe Bangfai River.

Access: Highway 12 to Muang Boualapha.



Hin Namno (also spelt Hin Nam No); Abbreviated: HNN


Established by PM Decree 164, 29 October 1993.


Location Latitude: 17º 15' - 17º 40' N
Longitude: 105º 43' - 106º 09' E

Map Sheets

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Scale I: 100,000





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Scale I: 500,000





Boulapha [23%]


194.33 km


The Eastern border of Hin Namno is the international boundary with Vietnam and is adjacent to Ke Bang forest area and the Phong Nha Nature Reserve in Vietnam . This complex forms one of the largest continuous limestone ecosystems in Southeast Asia . The northern tip of Hin Namno borders Nakai Nam Theun.


865 km2


  • Include the Xe Bang Fai headwaters.
  • Include a habitat corridor between Nakai Nam Theun NBCA and Hin Namno NBCA.
  • Include Phou Louang in Muang Boualapha.


To reach Muang Boualapha (district capital and NBCA headquarters) from Thakek, take Highway 12, a dirt road, east towards the Vietnamese border. About 17 km from the Vietnamese border, take the southern fork in the road towards Muang Boualapha. The trip from Thakek to Muang Boualapha takes approximately five hours. Hin Namno can also be reached via Highway 12 from Vietnam , though this is not an official immigration checkpoint.

Access to Muang Boualapha is especially difficult during the rainy season when the southern fork road from Highway 12 is closed due to muddy roads, high water, and no bridges. Therefore, in the rainy season the best way to reach Muang Boualapha is to travel by road from Thakek to Mahaxai (two hours) and then take a 10-hour boat ride to Muang Boualapha.
There are two new roads being built in Boualapha District. The first road is in the southern portion of Hin Namno NBCA and will connect Lao with Vietnam. The second road will connect Mahaxai to Muang Boualapha.

Villages &

There are approximately 20,080 people in all of Boualapha District (Boualapha Plan, 1996). In the area surrounding Hin Namno there are approximately 48 villages. Actual numbers of people living inside the NBCA are quite low due to difficult access and steep terrain.

No. of villages by type















Principal Local


There are no true ethnic Lao villages in the district. The lowland Tai-Kadai speakers are either Kaleung, Yooy, or Phou Thay (including the Katak subgroup). The main Katuic languages are mostly Brou and Tri. There are two groups in the far southwest of the district, Piou and Diao, which may be either Katuic or Phou Thay groups. It is very likely that the Ruc, a group of foraging nomads, also live in Hin Namno NBCA (Chamberlain, pers. comm.; Chamberlain et al., 1996).



Heavily bombed as Route 12 at the Northern area of the NBCA was a bottleneck for the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Indochina War


NBCA established, though little actually changes in Boualapha District


A five year plan is written for Boualapha District by Vietnamese advisors


Muang Boualapha is used as a base of operations for United Sates Missing in Action (MIA) program.


WWF and the Department of Forestry begin management activities for Hin Namno NBCA


Socio-economic surveys and land use planning work begins.



Hin Namno is an area where the Central Indochina Limestone meets the Annamite Chain. As a result, this area has prominent limestone escarpments and many caves, including a five km cave along the Xe Bangfai River.

The geology of the region is composed mostly of karst limestone.


100m to 1429 m


Climate in Boualapha District can be characterized as mostly cool, with a short, one-month long hot season. A distinct rain-shadow effect from the Annamite Mountains between Lao and Vietnam helps explain the cool temperatures and strong winds common in Boualapha. Temperatures range from the mid-teens to the upper thirties (Celcius).

Main Forest Types

According to Pheng (in: Vinton and Walston, 1999), there are seven habitat types found in Hin Namno. These habitats include: Evergreen Forest, Mixed Deciduous Forest, Deciduous Forest, Secondary Forest, shifting cultivation, bamboo forest and forest on limestone.
Due to difficult access, much of the forest of Hin Namno is free from extensive harvesting activity. However, areas near roads and villages have less cover.

Other Habitat

Due to extensive bombing during the Indochina war (Route 12 was a main artery of the Ho Chi Minh Trail), Hin Namno is riddled with bomb craters and UXO. These craters have been found to be microhabitats for both fish and reptiles (Bryan Stuart, pers. comm).


Vertebrate Class

No. of Species

No. of Key Species







Reptiles and Amphibians






Mammals: A total of 45 mammal species have been either confirmed or provisionally identified. 10 of these are listed as Globally Threatened or Globally Near Threatened (Walston and Vinton, 1999). There are potentially nine species of primates inhabiting the area, including Douc Langur (Pygathrix namaeus) and Francois's Langur (Semnopithecus francoisi). The Giant Muntjac (Megamuntiacus vuquangensis) also occurs within the NBCA. A total of 25 species of bats have been identified in Hin Namno, including three new records for Lao PDR: Horsfield's Fruit Bat (Cynopterus horfieldi), Harlequin Bat (Scotomanes ornatus) and Great Evening Bat (Ia io) (Vinton and Walston, 1999).

Birds: A total of 217 bird species have been identified, four of which are listed as Globally Threatened, and nine of which are listed as Globally Near Threatened. The Sooty Babbler (Stachyris herberti), which is endemic to the belt of limestone which spans central Vietnam and central-northern Lao PDR and only found in three protected areas in the world, has been encountered in all zones within the NBCA and is of high Global Importance. The presence of four hornbill species has also been confirmed for the area: Wreathed Hornbill (Rhyticeros undulatus), Brown Hornbill (Ptilolaemus tickelli), Great Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) and Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthraceros albirostris).

Fish: 130 species of fish have been collected in the Xe Bang Fai River, 25 of which were found in and around Hin Namno NBCA. At least two species are possibly endemic to the Xe Bang Fai River. Additionally, 29 of the 130 species (or 17.5%) of fish surveys in 1996 were previously unnamed (Kottelat, 1998).

Reptiles and amphibians: The only reptile and amphibian survey conducted in Hin Namno (Stuart, in: Vinton and Walston, 1999) collected or observed 46 species of reptiles and amphibians. All six turtle species collected are key species. These include Asiatic softshell (Amyda carilaginea), Wattle-necked Softshell (Palea steindacheri, Yellow-headed Temple Turtle (Hieremys annadlaei), Asian Leaf Turtle (Cyclmys dentata), Keeled Box Turtle (Pyxidea mouhotii), and Elongated Tortoise (Indotestudo elongata).

Principal Contributions to the NBCA System


The biodiversity value in Hin Namno is great due to the remote location and steep terrain. Numerous key species (species of high conservation value) are found in Hin Namno. These species include 10 mammals, 13 birds, and six turtles (see recorded vertebrates for more details).


The NBCA region supports only a few permanent watercourses, which drain westwards into the Xe Bangfai, with a total catchement of 9500 km2. The headwaters of the Xe Bangfai are at the Lao-Vietnam border and flow SE- NW through two deeply dissected limestone areas. After a 6-km long tunnel at the edge of the protected area, the river heads west towards Mahaxai, and finally enters the Mekong south of Thakek. There are few surface tributaries due to the rigid limestone. The yearly discharge of the river is 400-m3 s-1 (Kottelat 1996).


Boualapha District is home to numerous distinct ethnic groups. Each of these groups has unique cultures and cosmologies and is deserving of further study. Especially interesting are the Cheut people in the northern portion of the NBCA who use crossbows (Chamberlain, pers. comm.)


Hin Namno is a relatively unpopulated NBCA with a large border shared with Vietnam. Roads connect to Vietnam and both the Northern and Southern tips of the NBCA. There is no official security threat at this border.

and Tourism

Hin Namno has beautiful forests and the 6-km tunnel near Muang Boualapha has great eco-tourism potential. However, access to Hin Namno is limited, and requires both a truck and 9-hour boat ride in the rainy season. Additionally, large amounts of UXO in the area require extra safety precautions.


The most immediate and serious threats to the NBCA are human encroachment and NTFP collection. Much of the threat comes from Vietnam. Rattan collection is severe, especially in the southern portion, and will probably increase as roads are finished that connect Lao with Vietnam. "Mai Dam" (black wood), the fungus infected heartwood of Aquilaria (Thymeleaceae) is important commercially and sold to Vietnam.

Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) from the Indochina War is a major threat to the people and large animals in the area. UXO may hinder conservation efforts as it limits travel of both villagers and management staff.

Other threats include shifting cultivation and natural disasters. Upland shifting rice cultivation is increasing due to population pressures and increased poverty. Floods and drought have also plagued some of the communities in Boualapha District, which reduces their agricultural productiveness and increases the collection of NTFPs.

Reasons for
Extensions or

There are three suggested extensions that would benefit biodiversity conservation:

  • Include the Xe Bang Fai headwaters, as limestone is especially susceptible to pollution from upstream (Vermuelen and Whitten, 1999).
  • Include a habitat corridor between Nakai Nam Theun NBCA and Hin Namno NBCA
  • Include Phou Louang in Muang Boualapha, as it is adjacent to the protected area and extremely steep. 



  • Bountavi Luangoudom, PAFO Hin Namno NBCA representative in Thakek. Telephone/Fax: (856) 051 212754.
  • Sharon London, LINC Project Advisor, WWF- Lao, P.O. Box 7871 , Vientiane , Lao PDR. Telephone/Fax: (856) 051 212754. email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


As of January 200, there is one DAFO staff, one Boualapha Lao Women's Union staff, and three PAFO staff members assigned to work at Hin Namno NBCA. Project planning activities are conducted in Thakek, with frequent field visits to Boualapha District.


An organizational system is in progress of being established.


Construction of an NBCA office in Muang Boualapha is being negotiated by the WWF LINC project and should be finished by the beginning of 2000.


A project truck is on order. A project computer is located in the FOMACOP office in Thakek. Basic field supplies (binoculars, maps, 2 GPS, compasses, sleeping bags) are in the process of being purchased.

Support &

Financial support is being funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF): "Linking Hin Namno and Phong Nha- Ke Bang Through Parallel Conservation (LINC)." LINC is a three-year project beginning in 1999 for participatory resource management and biodiversity conservation. The project links conservation initiatives with Phong Nha-Ke Bang Protected Area on the Vietnamese border.


The main management priorities for Hin Namno are to establish a management structure and an improved understanding of resources and resource use stressing a participatory approach. Local villagers will be involved, which first requires socio-economic surveys to assess village needs and then an integrated conservation and development (ICAD) focus. Land use planning (village maps, etc) in villages in and around the protected area, as well as boundary demarcation, are also a priority. Flora and fauna surveys alongside local management of forest resources will be emphasized in Phase II of the project.


As UXO clearance, poverty alleviation, and conservation are all being addressed by different organizations in Boualapha District, collaborative opportunities are possible.

In addition, Hin Namno is contiguous with Phong Nha and Ke Bang protected areas in Vietnam. Therefore, collaboration between the two countries is encouraged. These collaborations may focus on issues such as wildlife trade and non-timber forest product extraction and are a priority for WWF in both countries. There have already been meetings and workshops in 1998 and 1999 in both countries to begin addressing trans-boundary conservation. More meetings and workshops will be conducted in 2000 and beyond.

Phong Nha Ke Bang Protected Area in Vietnam requested UNESCO Natural World Heritage status. It was initially denied, though a joint, transboundary request incorporating Hin Namno might be considered, especially as limestone areas are extremely delicate and receiving global attention. The consideration for natural World Heritage status is still in the initial stages of development.

Other Relevant

  • CARE : European Union (EU) funded "Echo IV" (a poverty alleviation project) provides food for work for 15 villages in Boualapha District
  • World Vision- UXO Clearance: World Vision will begin ordinance clearance in Boualapha District in 2000.
  • SIDA: Roadwork to connect Mahaxai and Boualapha.
  • INDSCO-ILO: INDSCO is conducting small, income generating projects in the Southern portion of Boualapha District. 

6. Reports and Publications

Annonymus (1996). Community Economic Development Project: 1996-2005. Kham Xe- Mongna Area, Boualapha District, Khammouane Province . (June, 1996) [Lao].

Chamberlain, J. R. (1999). The Origin of the Sek: Implications for Tai and Vietnamese History . Journal of the Siam Society, vol. 86, Parts 1 & 2.

Chamberlain, J. R., Alton , C., Silavong L. and Pilavong, B. (1996).Socio-Economic and Cultural Survey: Nam Theun 2 Project Area, Lao PDR . CARE International, Lao PDR.

Claridge, G. (1997). Khammouane Province : A Preliminary Environmental Inventory. IUCN, Vientiane , Lao PDR.

Dillon, T.C. and Wikramanayake, E.D. (1997). A forum for transboundary conservation in Cambodia , Laos and Vietnam . WWF Indochina , Conservation Science Program WWF-US.

Kottelat, M. (1998). Fishes of the Nam Theun and Xe Bangfai basins, Laos, with diagnoses of twenty-two new species (Teleostei: Cyprinidae, Balitoridae, Cobitidae, Coiidae, and Odontubutidae).Icthyol. Explor. Freshwaters. Vol. 9, No. 1, p 1-128, July, 1998.

Le Xuan Cahn, et al . (1997). A Report of Field Surveys on Biodiversity in Phong Nha, Ke Bang Forest, Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam, WWF, Indochina Program.

Timmins , R.J. and Khounboline, K. (1996). A preliminary wildlife and habitat survey of Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area, Khammouane Province , Lao PDR. Final report to CPAWM, Department of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Lao PDR. Vientiane . WCS.

Vermeulen, J., Whitten, T. (1999) . Directions in Development. Biodiversity and Cultural Property in the Management of Limestone Resources: Lessons from East Asia . The World Bank, Washington , D.C.

Vinton, M. and Walston, J. (editors). (1999). A Wildlife and Habitat Survey of Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area and Adjacent Areas, Khammouane Province, Lao PDR, February- March, 1998. WWF Lao Project Office, Lao PDR.

WWF Indochina (1998). LINC: Linking Hin Namno and Phong Nha Through Parallel Conservation. LINC Phase I. Project Document. WWF, Indochina Programme. Hanoi , Vietnam.