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Vietnam was blessed with very rich biodiversity, largely on account of its wide range of latitudes. From north to south it stretches over 1,600 km long. It features two World Natural Heritage sites, Halong Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, and six World biosphere reserves.
At the same time, the human population is burgeoning – it currently stands at 86 million people. The country is also undergoing extremely rapid growth, which is drawing on its natural resources like timber, water and land. The hunting and trapping of animals for use in traditional medicine is also a huge threat to wildlife.
The karst limestone forest ecosystem is particularly species rich. It is home to wildlife such as the western black crested gibbon and Tonkin snub-nosed monkey. Yet it is extremely fragile and in need of active conservation.
The Fauna & Flora International (FFI) Vietnam Programme is at the forefront of saving the unique and extremely threatened wildlife, much of which is teetering on the verge of global extinction.
We have several different projects running but one of the most important is our primate programme, which targets the endangered primates persisting in isolated pockets within the Northern Limestone Mountains and the Hoang Lien Mountains, in the north of the country.
The karst limestone hills of northern Vietnam are home to some of the world’s rarest and most remarkable trees, including several beautiful magnolias. The area is under intense pressure from agriculture, however, and there is very limited knowledge or skills locally for tree conservation. Through the Global Trees Campaign (GTC) programme, FFI’s local partner Centre for Plant Conservation is working with local community groups to protect and replant out these species in three sites. This includes successful planting out of more than 800 Magnolia grandis seedlings, a Critically Endangered species reduced to c.50 individuals prior to GTC intervention.
In 2016, FFI has supported two meetings of experts and government authorities to develop a National Primate Action Plan. FFI is a lead on the drafting committee as well as providing financial support for the process. The action plan will provide a strong legislative basis for protection as primate conservation will need to be considered during government development planning. It should also provide state revenue for key primate conservation activities, which has been lacking in the past.
FFI has developed the Management Advisory Committee (MAC) model approach for all protected areas where it currently works. The model engages local stakeholders through the development of a local stakeholder committee, which advises the relevant protected area board and local and provincial agencies. FFI supports the monitoring of these protected areas by use of the Spatial Modelling and Reporting Tool (SMART). SMART is based on a set of common principles for improving site-based conservation effectiveness. SMART is open source, non-proprietary and free, and FFI provides training for Community Conservation Team managers, team leaders and staff as part of its conservation capacity building in Vietnam. FFI supplies salaries and equipment such as GPS, boots, compasses, uniforms and more to the Community Conservation Team teams, who are local community members.
In partnership with local NGOs, FFI is conducting a project to protect endangered primates and trees (such as endangered conifers and magnolias) that share the same habitat in a number of locations within the limestone mountains of north-eastern Vietnam. The focus is on developing species conservation action plans that take into account conservation requirements for both trees and primates. These action plans are developed in cooperation with the people living around these areas and also consider local livelihood needs. The action plans are site-specific and recommend a tailored approach, to serve as a baseline for further conservation measures.
The Critically Endangered Tonkin snub-nosed monkey has been at the centre of FFI’s primate conservation activities for well over a decade. In 2002, after discovering a key population of the species in Ha Giang Province,FFI took immediate action and continues to support long-term ecological studies . FFI surveys in 2007 led to the discovery of another population at Tung Vai Watershed forest in Quan Ba on the border with China. FFI has established and continues to support community-based patrol groups, undertaken awareness raising and educational measures, and developed a species conservation action plan for the sites.
In 2015, FFI built the Tung Vai Conservation Field Station and continues to support community-led patrols. An assessment of the agriculture in Quan Ba District identified the impact of cash and subsistence crop growth on forest quality. Cardamom was identified as the primary cash crop and FFI is in the midst of planning mitigation strategies to protect forest quality for the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey.
The Hoang Lien Son Mountains at the south-eastern tip of the Himalayan range are home to the last remaining western black crested gibbons, which are restricted to one block of contiguous forest stretching across two neighbouring provinces.
FFI’s long-term engagement in this area helped pave the way for the establishment of two protected areas; we have been working at the first of these – Mu Cang Chai Species and Habitat Conservation Area (Yen Bai Province) – for more than a decade, successfully engaging with communities who live near the gibbon’s habitat. At the second, neighbouring Muong La Watershed Protection Forest (Son La Province), the FFI programme is still at an early stage but is focusing on implementing and supporting community-based patrolling and educational activities.
With only about 100 individuals remaining, the cao vit gibbon is one of the most threatened primates in the world. Only known to exist on the border between Vietnam and China, it is threatened by habitat loss and degradation, mainly due to fuelwood collection and free-grazing livestock. FFI has been working with local partners since the rediscovery of the gibbons to set up community-based patrol groups, establish protected areas for key gibbon habitat, and reduce threats in surrounding buffer zones. Today, communities are able to actively participate in the management of their local forest thanks to an advisory committee set up as part of this work. Meanwhile, staff in both China and Vietnam are working closely together, and in 2012 both governments signed an agreement to strengthen transboundary cooperation on conserving this threatened and charismatic primate.
In several respects, the status of gibbons in Vietnam is an indicator of the general status of the nation’s biodiversity and the natural environment. The geography of Vietnam lends itself to the high level of biodiversity for which it is known. The distribution of its six gibbon species also reflects the countries diversity – with the primates found from the most northerly sub-tropical forests that experience cold winters at high altitudes, to tropical monsoon lowland forests in the south. Quick…Read more