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Savannakhet fossils draw tourists to Laos

The Science, Technology and Environment Office in Kaysone Phomvihane district, Savannakhet province, is planning to refurbish the Dinosaur Museum as a major tourist attraction next year and is seeking funding.

The Head of the office, Mr Sinouan Sihalath, told Vientiane Times yesterday that the major goal is to attract local and foreign visitors to view the area’s unique fossil history and the items that have been unearthed over the previous 70 years.

“We also hope to raise awareness among locals and visitors of the benefits and importance of museums,” he said

“By 2010, the number of tourists visiting the museum is expected to rise to 10,000 per year, up from 6,000 last year. The reason for this increase is the opening of the second Lao-Thai Mekong Friendship Bridge at the end of 2006, linking Savannakhet with Mukdahan province, Thailand,” he added.

Mr Sinouan said the museum had generated around 20 million kip in tourist revenue in the past year.

Fossilised bones have been discovered in many parts of the province and are on show at the museum, but there is much more waiting to be discovered, he said.

Dinosaurs vanished from the Earth more than 60 million years ago. In Laos, the first remains were discovered in Tangvay and Nasay villages of Xonbouly district in 1936 by French geologist Josue Heilmann Hoffet.

At that time, Mr Hoffet discovered many fossils in the area, including the remains of four-legged sauropods, two-legged theropods such as the iguanodon, and prehistoric crocodiles and tortoises.

Mr Sinouan explained that a Lao technical team from the Social Science Centre and the Natural Resource and Environment Institute had cooperated with a team of palaeontologists from the French National Museum of Natural History since 1990.

Work has continued at 16 sites in the province, with Lao and French specialists discovering fossils not only in Xonbouly, but also in Phalanxay, Atsaphone, Xayphouthong and Songkhone districts.


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