Nearly two-thirds of Laos is covered by thick forest. The forests of southernmost Laos are an extension of the Kampuchean type of vegetation, while the highland forests of the north, consisting of prairies interspersed with thickets, resemble central Vietnam. Bamboo, lianas, rattan, and palms are found throughout Laos.
Roaming the forests are panthers and a dwindling number of tigers, elephants, and leopards. The elephant, until 1975 depicted on the national flag as the traditional symbol of Lao royalty, has been used throughout history as a beast of burden. A local breed of water buffalo also is universally used as a draft animal. Reptiles include cobras, geckos, kraits, and Siamese crocodiles. There are many varieties of birds, fish, and insects.