Critically Endangered primates to receive a boost in Vietnam

Ha Giang province, in the remote Northern Highlands of Vietnam, is home to the world’s largest known population of Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys. The word ‘largest’ is something of a misnomer, given the total population stands at no more than 90 individuals, but an increase in numbers is now looking more positive, due to an agreement between key stakeholders.

The main stakeholders of the Khau Ca Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey Species and Habitat Conservation Area have reached agreement on collaborating on a common agenda to conserve the threatened primate within its habitat. The agreement has for the time being only been captured in a District Regulation, but is expected to receive formal provincial approval, once the document has been field trialed for a preliminary three month period.

The regulation pinpoints the main stakeholders, and then stipulates their commitment in seven key areas of protected area management – namely boundary demarcation, biodiversity research, law enforcement, community development, community outreach, natural resource management (forest fire management and reforestation) and ecotourism. It also mandates their involvement in zoning and management planning for the reserve.

John Parr, Vietnam Country Director for Fauna & Flora International (FFI) – and protected area management specialist in south-east Asia, says, “It is too early to say what we have created, both for the reserve, and in the wider national context. We hope this forest governance structure will be of interest for the management of special use forests as well as perhaps watersheds in Vietnam.”

Mr Hoang Van Tue, Director of the Khau Ca Species and Habitat Conservation Area and head of Ha Giang Provincial Nature Conservation Office, stated that the Regulation provides a forum both for constructive engagement between the interested parties, and for conflict mitigation. “If we can collaborate together and strengthen the local constituency for the preservation of the monkey, the long-term survival of this endangered primate should be enhanced”, he said.

Mr Tue has been instrumental in the formation of the Regulation with the local stakeholders, and is leading the expansion of this new management agenda to other five protected areas in Ha Giang.

Mr Nguyen Thanh Kien, Head of Yen Dinh commune policemen, a member of Advisory Committee, said, “the formulation of Advisory Committee is fully appropriate with forest management agenda at local level, it shows future potentials for long-term management of nature forest resources in collaboration between forest protection agencies and local stakeholders.”

As the first well-organised legal framework for co-management for a Special Use Forest in Vietnam, this new agreement will prescribe for an annual report and a financial statement to be prepared, which is a a particularly pertinent feature for effective use of funds.

A similar management process is being initiated in Trung Khanh District, Cao Bang Province for the conservation of the cao vit gibbon and in Mu Cang Chai Species and Habitat Conservation Area in Yen Bai province for the western black crested gibbon. So far, there are encouraging signals that this co-management approach may be applicable to watershed protection forests as well as special use forests.

To assess whether the Management Advisory Committee is truly effective, FFI are videoing the meetings in their entirety and then seeing whether the words issued in the meetings are later converted into meaningful actions within the protected areas.

“We may have to reflect on how these forest management governance issues affect  benefit-sharing mechanisms and our approaches for conducting Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in Special Use Forests involving communities under the emerging agenda for tackling climate change through improved forest protection in Vietnam” added Mr Parr.