Laos is one of the only few countries in Southeast Asia with pristine ecology, with almost two-thirds of the country is covered by thick forest. Laos terrain is mountainous with a maximum elevation of 2,820 m in Xieng Khouang province. The northern part of the region is dominated by hills. Mekong River is the main geographical feature in the west and forms a natural border with some parts of the neighboring countries.
Tropical rain forests are usually comprised of trees like bamboos, teak, and Asian Rosewood that shed leaves during the dry season. Laos tropical rainforests are composed of three vegetation layers. High reaching dipterocarps form the top layer. The middle canopy is made up of hardwood like teaks, and Asian Rosewoods, while small bushes, shrubs, wild grasses and other wild species of climbers and bamboos inhabited the third layer. The southern part of the region is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation similar to the Kampuchean type; dry dipterocarp forest in which canopies are more open and with less middle layer and numerous grass-bamboos undergrowth. Bamboos, lianas, palms and rattan are commonly found throughout Laos.
The country’s flora comprises of large species of bamboos, abundant flowering species particularly orchids, scrumptious array of fruit trees. Laos is rich with natural resources. Livelihoods of locals are highly dependent on the forest. Thus, there is a drastic decrease in the country’s natural resources. The excessive lumbering in the certain areas on the South and Southeast part of the region, the traditional forest clearing using slash-and burn methods by certain mountain ethnic tribes brought harm to the ecology of the country.
Laos host a diverse range of exotic and rare animals. Its low population density has contributed to the preservation of large number of animal species. Large number of animal species can be seen within the region including the 500 different birds. A number of critically endangered species such as Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), Kouprey (bos sauveli) and Sumantran Rhinoceros ( Dicerorhinus suatrensis) have been sighted in the country. Endangered species such as Asian Elephant, Banteng, black gibbon, douc monkey, hoolock gibbon, particolored flying squirrel, red panda, and tiger as well as the unknown Quang Vu buffalo endemic the country. Other animals roaming the forest of the region are Asiatic black bear, Asiatic golden cat, primates (assamese macaque, northern pigtail macaque, pig-tail macaque, stumptail macaque, buff-cheek gibbon, Francois Leaf monkey, pygmy loris, pileated gibbon) back-striped weasel,clouded leopard, dhole, eld’s deer, Eurasian otter, fishing cat, gaur, Irrawaddy squirrel, long-tailed goral, mainland serow, Malayan tapir, marble cat, owston’s palm civet, Sikkim rat and smooth-coated otter.
The eastern border region of Laos is inhibited by Saola Ox, a breed of deer-antelope. The Irrawaddy dolphins lodge near Khong Island of the Southern Laos. Other unknown species are yet to be explored in remote areas of Laos. The disappearance of the wildlife of the country is quite alarming. The overhunting of wildlife that is largely driven by trade is the main threat to the wildlife conversation therefore the public authorities are making an immense effort to restrict the hunting of wildlife.