Vietnamese forest rich in biodiversity despite years of logging



Posted on 08 July 2004  | 
Hanoi, Vietnam - A WWF-led survey of five forest concessions stretching to the north, south, and west of Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park found that despite being extensively logged, these areas still support a rich array of wildlife. 

Vietnamese and international scientists spent two weeks in the forests, all of which were found to contain a significant number of threatened species, including high numbers of endemic mammal species, such as the black-shanked douc langur and gaur, as well as important species of birds. Moreover, at least one and possibly three previously unknown species of rare butterflies were recorded, along with a species of lizard that may also be new to science. The findings illustrate the importance of these forests and the need for them to be conserved.  

As people also depend on the forest, the social and economic conditions of those living in the area were also surveyed to better understand the importance of the forests for those who use and manage them. Logging has been an important part of the local economy, but most of the best wood has already been harvested. Three of the forest enterprises continue harvesting, but it is illegal logging that poses a greater threat. 
 
The survey team, which recently presented its findings to provincial authorities, therefore did not call for a halt to commercial logging, except of threatened species. However, the team strongly urged the enforcement of laws prohibiting illegal logging and hunting. The final report also recommends greater involvement of local people in protecting the forests. 
 
The survey was part of WWF-Indochina's Cat Tien National Park Conservation Project, which is looking for ways to ensure that plants and animals living in the park have a large enough range. Many species, including elephants as well as small animals, depend on an extensive ecosystem to survive. Located within the Greater Annamites Ecoregion, Cat Tien National Park is one of Vietnam’s larger parks at 74,000 hectares. However, it is pinched in the middle by a population of people that divides the park into two sections, so is still not big enough. 

One of the options presented to authorities by the survey team was to extend the protection of the forest concessions. Specifically, it was suggested that 10,000ha of La Nga Forestry Company bordering Cat Tien in the south be included in the park in order to better protect the herd of elephants, the second largest in Vietnam, which lives between La Nga and the park. 

It was also proposed that parts of the forest concessions be designated as “very critical watershed protection forest”. Four of the five forest enterprises border the Dong Nai River, a major source of water for Ho Chi Minh City and the surrounding economic zone, the biggest in the country. The degradation of these forests could result in the build up of silt in the river, increased flooding and consequent soil erosion, and shortages of water for irrigation, all of which could jeopardize the health and livelihoods of millions of people. The designation would also extend the protection of the forests by restricting the harvesting of such resources as honey, bamboo, and orchids. 
 
Recognizing that its forests are degraded and over-logged, the Dong Nai provincial authorities have already converted three of the province’s state forest enterprises into a protected area - the Vinh Cuu Nature Reserve, which was officially gazetted by the Provincial People’s Committee early this year. Covering more territory than all of the southern section of Cat Tien National Park, the new nature reserve enlarges the landscape for many species, enhancing their chances of survival in an ever-diminishing world. 

For more information: 
Hoang Thi Minh Hong 
Communications Manager, WWF-Indochina 
Tel: +84 4 7338387 ext.126 
E-mail: hong@wwfvn.org.vn
The forests in and around Cat Tien National Park are home to Vietnam's last Javan rhinos and many other rare species. Ethnic minorities also live in the area, such as the Stieng people.
© WWF-Canon / Elizabeth Kemf Enlarge

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