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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 Hieu Commune REDD+ Project, as it is now known, grew out of the Community Carbon Pool Regional Initiative (see below), as the Vietnam pilot site, and is working to protect the habitat of the Grey-shanked douc langur, one of the 25 most endangered primates globally, and is also inhabited by some of the most remote and marginalised ethnic minorities in the country. It is Vietnam’s most advanced REDD+ project, and ready for validation as soon as new funding is secured. The level of poverty in the area is acute and REDD+ payments are expected to successfully incentivise long-term forest protection and contribute to the improved well-being of eleven communities. Meanwhile, future REDD+ payments aside, community members have stated that stronger forest protection is what they view as the most positive outcome of the project to date.
Since 2006, FFI has been exploring ways in which emerging Payments for Ecosystem Services mechanisms can be harnessed for the benefit of conservation and local communities. The core idea behind REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation, plus enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries) is to make performance-based payments to forest communities who help reduce emissions by conserving their forest. To succeed, REDD+ requires a broad set of policies and institutional reforms that clearly define land tenure and carbon rights.
To help with this, FFI has secured a three million Euro EU-funded project on ‘Developing community carbon pools for REDD+ projects in selected ASEAN countries’. The project has been designed to build the capacity of local communities and local governments to actively participate in REDD+ pilot projects in Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia and to feed lessons learned into policy dialogues at sub-national, national and regional levels. The project also supports the design and implementation of pilot REDD+ projects, with the aim of establishing social and environmental safeguards and ensuring equitable benefit sharing.
FFI’s ‘floating classroom’, the EcoBoat, has taught thousands of Vietnamese school children the importance of balancing their nation’s economic development with preservation of the natural environment and biological diversity. During their day trips in magically beautiful Ha Long Bay, a World Heritage Site, the students explore caves and mangrove forests, interview fishermen and women and take part in lively debates.
The EcoBoat has been absorbed into the government’s Ha Long Bay Management Department but is intended to evolve into an independent civil society organisation.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, a World Heritage Site, is the richest location for primates in Indo-china, containing ten different primate species. FFI has been active there since 1998 and is now supporting the management authorities to protect the park and its biodiversity. We are helping to establish a scientific research team to enhance knowledge of the park and advise on community-based Forest Patrol Groups.
In addition, FFI works to improve local people’s livelihoods by establishing forest gardens which create habitat corridors, helping to maintain the forest’s ecosystem services.
FFI is working with local people, tour operators, local authorities and nature reserve staff to develop sustainable community-based tourism around Pu Luong Nature Reserve in northern Vietnam. We aim to provide a source of income for the local Thai and Muong people to help reduce unsustainable use of the forests.
The widespread collection of firewood damages the fragile karst ecosystem, which supports a huge array of threatened species. Thus, the revenue from tourism will help to conserve the biodiversity and natural resources of the local landscape.
FFI has been in the vanguard of organisations developing models to involve local communities in conservation in Vietnam. FFI will work to consolidate its experiences at three protected areas in northern Vietnam, each with its own set of opportunities and challenges. Through this project, in partnership with local organisation Pan Nature, we will support grass roots organisations and groups to develop roles in the management of local protected areas and collate the lessons learned to provide policy and practice recommendations to the national government.
In partnership with local NGOs, FFI is starting a new initiative to protect endangered primates and trees (such as Critically Endangered conifers and magnolia) at 11 locations within the limestone mountains of north-east Vietnam. We will focus on developing plans for conservation interventions in conjunction with local communities who have had little previous exposure to conservation but whose forests harbour important populations of threatened primates and trees.
FFI is supporting local communities to protect the critically endangered western black crested gibbon and its mountain forest habitat located at the south-eastern end of the Himalayan range. We have been working closely with local communities around the gibbon’s habitat for more than a decade, helping to develop one of the most innovative model programmes in Vietnam for involving local communities in conservation.
The elusive Tonkin snub-nosed monkey faces extinction unless the 200 or so remaining individuals are protected. After discovering a new population in 2002 in Ha Giang Province, FFI succeeded in addressing the short-term threat of hunting by advocating gun controls and establishing community ranger groups. We have also supported long-term research and in 2009 assisted the local government to establish a protected area for the species. In 2007 FFI confirmed the presence of another important, although precarious, population close to the Chinese border and is now actively conserving it through similar measures.
With about 100 individuals left, the cao vit gibbon is one of the most threatened primates in the world and in dire need of conservation support. Alongside ecological research and direct protection of the gibbon’s habitat,Fauna & Flora International (FFI) helps local communities reduce their impact on the gibbon’s forest home. For example, we have introduced fuel-efficient stoves to reduce the demand for fuel wood from the forest. FFI supported the establishment of a new protected area for the species in 2007 and is now helping staff to work with local communities to achieve the protected area’s biodiversity conservation objectives. This project is integrated with cao vit gibbon activities in China and Lao PDR.
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