The wolf barb (Luciociprinus striolatus) is an endangered fish species found only in parts of Laos and China. This predatory barb can reach lengths of 2 meters, and while it is known to inhabit fast-flowing rocky streams, little else is known about its distribution and life cycle. It is also a sought-after target for recreational fishers, which suggests potential for supporting aquatic ecotourism in Laos. In 2021, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and IUCN Asia Regional Office, serving as the Regional Implementation Team for CEPF, engaged FISHBIO to conduct research on the wolf barb to inform conservation activities. The goal of the project, which is funded by a small grant that runs through 2023, is to develop scientific knowledge and understanding of the abundance, distribution, life cycle, and threats of this data-poor endangered species in order to better protect its population in Laos.
The project is taking place in the Nam Pak, Nam Ou Basin of Oudomxay Province in northern Laos, as well as the Nam Kading and Nam Thuen basins of Bolikhamxay and Khammouane provinces in central Laos. Activities include hook-and-line surveys as well as environmental DNA sampling to obtain information on the abundance and distribution of L. striolatus. An inventory of fish habitat and water quality is also being conducted across the known species range. We are working with local communities to document local knowledge about the wolf barb population and threats, and are seeking to develop local conservation measures, including community-managed Fish Conservation Zones. FISHBIO is partnering with several organizations on this project, including Comité de Coopération avec le Laos (CCL), Association Anoulak, and the Nakai-Nam Theun National Park Authority.