Laos harbours globally significant populations of small carnivores, including mustelids and viverrids of conservation concern and felids that are relatively rare or unknown from other parts of Asia. However, few have received conservation attention as managers still lack basic information on the status and distribution of even the most common species. We conducted the country’s first systematic camera-trap monitoring of carnivores in the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area on the Laos–Vietnam border, with intensive sampling across 500 km2 from 543 to 2,288 m altitude for 8,499 camera-trap days during 2003–2006. Surveys detected 14 species of small carnivores, including the first record of Owston’s civet Chrotogale owstoni for Laos. Preliminary occupancy estimates for the seven most common species ranged from 11% for marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata to 42% for Asian golden cat Pardofelis temminckii. Activity patterns of viverrids were primarily nocturnal whereas mustelids, except for hog badger Arctonyx collaris, were diurnal. Leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis was largely nocturnal, marbled cat primarily diurnal and Asian golden cat as likely detected during the day as at night. Our results led to the establishment of a contiguous 3,000-km2 protected area core zone and regulations that protect threatened species and control harvest of managed species.