Indochina Dry Forests

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Sunset, Ha Long Bay islands, Vietnam.
© WWF-Canon / Edward PARKER

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Southeastern Indochina dry evergreen forests; and Central Indochina dry forests.

Although most of the original monsoon forests of this ecoregion have been degraded, especially in Vietnam, the fragments that remain contain an extraordinary diversity of life. These forests are adapted to dry periods of several months, followed by several months of torrential rain.

Most of the native tree species lose their leaves during part of the year, though all of them are not leafless at the same time, as is the case with the northern deciduous forests.

The Southeastern Indochina Dry Evergreen Forests ecoregion is globally outstanding for the large vertebrate fauna it harbors within large intact landscapes. It also represents a rare instance of a nonmontane ecoregion with large expanses of intact habitat that can allow viable populations of these species to survive over the long term.

Size:
444,000 sq. km (171,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Eastern Indochina: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
The beautiful red-shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus nemaeus) is only found in north and central Vietnam and Laos. Its habitat is in the lowland to montane primary and secondary rainforests where it lives in the mid to upper levels of the canopy.

Illegal trade is a particular threat to this species, but Vietnamese laws protecting the douc langurs have been difficult to enforce. The highly endangered wild cattle called Kouprey (Bos sauveli) are believed to still exist in these forests although none has been seen for decades.

Southeastern Indochina dry evergreen forests are home to 455 bird species that include 2 near-endemic species and one endemic species, the endangered orange-necked partridge (Arborophila davidi).

Also seen are the pygmy lorises, the Sao la, Giant muntjac, and rare bird species such as the orange-necked partridge and Siamese fireback (Lophura diardi). These forests support a number of other well-known threatened species including Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris), crested gibbon (Hylobates concolor), and the only Javan rhinos (Rhinoceros sondaicus) still living on the Asian continent.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Red-shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus nemaeus), north and central Vietnam.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

Featured Species

Known also as the wild forest ox of Indochina, the enormous kouprey (Bos sauveli), endemic to Cambodia, is the least known species of wild cattle alive today. Grey to dark brown or black, their bodies are massive but narrow, legs long and backs humped. Males may stand 2 m at the shoulder and weigh up to 900 kg. Adult males have a pronounced dewlap, up to 40 cm (16 in) long. Both sexes have curiously notched nostrils and long tails. The horns of the female are lyre-shaped with antelope-like upward spirals. The widespread horns in the male arch forward and upward.

They live a skittish, nocturnal life in inaccessible habitats consisting of open deciduous forests, grasslands, wooded grasslands and patches of closed monsoon forest. Most live in areas receiving 100-200 cm (40-80 in) of precipitation per year and there are indications that they move to higher elevations during the rainy season. They typically graze in open areas during the day, entering the forest for shelter from the sun, refuge from predators, and to seek food when the grasslands are dry. Like other wild cattle species, they are primarily grazers but will browse as well.

The kouprey was only identified in 1937, but there has been no scientific sighting since 1957. Unconfirmed reports from traders and occasional tracks give hope that it may yet be extant. It is listed as critically endangered by IUCN.

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Threats
Much of the original monsoon forest, particularly in Vietnam, has been degraded through logging and clearing for agriculture. Some areas have been subjected to burning or conversion to teak plantations.

From small, homemade crossbows used to kill small mammals for local consumption to bombs hidden in baited traps to kill tigers and pitfall traps for elephants, hunting has taken a very heavy toll on wildlife. The ravages of war and conflict have also had lasting effects; mines and bombs scattered across the landscape and the easy availability of automatic weapons that have replaced the crossbows have had deadly consequences.

In Laos, protected areas suffer from shifting cultivation, excessive non-timber forest product harvesting, wildlife poaching (for domestic use and local and international trade), and illegal logging.
WWF’s work
Reflecting WWF's global 3-tiered approach to forests, the Asia Pacific Forest Programme acts to establish and manage protected areas, restore degraded landscapes, and reduce threats from unsustainable industry and agriculture practices.

WWF has had great success in establishing new protected areas in the region.

The Vietnam Forest & Trade Network (Vietnam FTN) is the Vietnamese chapter of WWF's Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). The Vietnam FTN facilitates trade links with a global network of responsible buyers, helping to stimulate a vibrant Vietnamese forest industry. Additionally, the Vietnam FTN provides a framework by which producers and processors can work towards credible certification while receiving the benefits of being members of the Vietnam FTN.

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