Proposal to demarcate park alarms conservationists in Vietnam



Posted on 23 May 2001  | 
Hanoi, Vietnam - A recent recommendation to demarcate parts of Cat Ba Marine National Park in Vietnam could have adverse consequences on plant and animal life within the park if implemented, WWF, the conservation organization said today.

In February this year, Vietnamese Vice Prime Minister Nguyen Cong Tan proposed that the park's boundaries be redrawn and part of the park and the little that remains of buffer zones allocated for aqua farming. As a follow-up, the government set up an inter-ministerial committee to look into the possibility of implementing the proposal. Conservationists now fear that the decision to carve off parts of the park is a foregone conclusion merely awaiting the office of the Prime Minister's approval.

'' Cat Ba National Park is crucial to Vietnam's conservation efforts. It is characterised by a high terrestrial and marine biodiversity with about 800 different plant species and about 32 mammal species so far identified. It is also the only place in the wild where the endangered primate, the rare golden-headed langur is found, '' said Eric Coull, WWF Indochina Representative.

The golden-headed langur (also known as white-headed) is only found in the wild in Cat Ba Island in Halong Bay. Its population is believed to now number number as few as 100 individuals. Any action that endangers Cat Ba's status as a national park will obviously jeopardise the fate of the langur by making it easier for people to hunt it for commercial purposes.

The proposals which the inter-ministerial committee is meant to look into include the transfer of the management of Cat Ba National Park to the Peoples' Committee of Hai Phong and redrawing of the boundaries of the park and re-allocation of crucial sea areas and buffer zones to commercial interests. The committee is also meant to look into the possibility of allocating funds to the Hai Phong Peoples Committe for the management of the park.

WWF believes that while any initiative that would help local communities improve their welfare is indeed welcome, this should be very carefully managed and initiated without carving off parts of the park. WWF is willing to engage in dialogue with government so as to discuss ways in which a balance between the people's needs and those of conservation can be met without annexing parts of the park.

The fact that Cat Ba is one of only two Marine National Parks in Vietnam that has both a land and marine protected zone and that it is recognised, internationally and nationally, as priority area for biodiversity conservation, requires any measures to cut off parts of the park for human development to be reconsidered. So far, human impact on the eastern part of the park is comparatively low as the marine protected area acts as a barrier.

WWF's Indo-China programme has been instrumental in helping strengthen environmental education in Cat Ba with support from the Dutch government. This has enhanced the park's capacity to provide school and community-based environmental education, and resulted in the establishment of an environmental education centre which provides visitors with information about the park and involves them in educational activities along the park's nature trails.

For further information contact: Nguyen Diep Hoa, Communications Manager, WWF-Indochina (Vietnam). Tel: +84 4 8220 640, Email: hoa@wwfvn.org.vn

The scientific name for the golden-headed (white-headed) langur: Trachypithecus poliocephalus

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