The Hoang Lien Son Mountains at the south-eastern tip of the Himalayan range are home to the last remaining western black crested gibbons in Vietnam. The entire Vietnamese population of this species is restricted to one block of 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 Nature Reserve (Son La Province), the project is still at an early stage, but is focusing on implementing and supporting community-based patrolling and educational activities.

FFI worked with Mu Cang Chai Species and Habitat Conservation Area (SHCA) management board to establish and train the community-based conservation teams. These teams monitor biodiversity with a focus on gibbons, and patrol the forest within the protected area looking for illegal logging, hunting and conversion of forest for agricultural land. The data and information they collect during forest patrols is then incorporated into a Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for further analysis. The results help Mu Cang Chai SHCA management and FFI make more informed decisions about conservation management.

FFI is working closely with SHCA management board to pilot a new model of community-based forest protection through payment for forest environmental services (PFES), an acknowledged sustainable financial mechanism for forest protection. If successful, it will provide the blueprint for a legal and environmental policy governing the implementation of PFES-funded community-based forest protection in other areas in Vietnam.