The kha-nyou was first described in 2005, after specimens purchased by scientists visiting a local food market in Lao were shown to be unique. It was subsequently shown to be the sole surviving member of the ancient and morphologically distinct rodent family Diatomyidae. The kha-nyou is known only from Khammouan Province in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). It was thought to be largely confined to the Phou Hin Poun National Biodiversity Conservation Area (formerly known as Khammouane Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area) but recent reports suggest it may be more widespread. These need verifying.. The majority of specimens were collected in the vicinity of Ban Mauang and Ban Doy villages in Thakhek Distric in areas with large limestone boulders, on steep slopes surrounding karst formations. Slopes in these areas are covered in both evergreen and deciduous trees, but have little ground vegetation. Classified as Endangered (EN B1ab (ii, iii, v)) on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The limestone karst in which the species is found is fairly resilient to degradation. However, more accessible areas of the karst are vulnerable to logging and firewood removal. The species is also targeted by local hunters who sell it for food at bushmeat markets. While the precise impact of these threats is unclear, it is likely that the current level of offtake is unsustainable given the species’ small range (less than 5,000km2).
The species occurs in the Phou Hin Poun National Biodiversity Conservation Area. Further research is needed to assess the current population status of this species, and the relative importance of the suspected threats.