Protected places: National Parks

Each with unique characteristics

Some of the most well known protected areas in the Greater Annamites are described below...

Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam

Cat Tien National Park is one of the jewels in the crown of Vietnam's protected areas network.

Most famous for housing one of the last two remaining global populations of Javan rhinoceros , the park also plays host to a number of other rare and endangered species.

Such inhabitants include critically endangered species as orange-necked partridge and Siamese crocodile. Given the national park's proximity to Ho Chi Minh City, Cat Tien is also a major tourist destination for national and international visitors to learn about the region's biodiversity.

The Bau Sau (or Crocodile Lake) wetland complex is a remarkable and beautiful part of Cat Tien National Park.

At the peak of the dry season, the wetlands become restricted to small isolated lakes. However, during the wet season the complex expands to cover a large area of open water, marshland and flooded forest.

Bau Sau wetland complex plays an important role in the life cycle of a number of Cat Tien's inhabitants, but is probably most famous for the species from which it takes it's name - the Siamese crocodile.

Dusk is one of the most beautiful times to visit Bau Sau wetland complex as the air comes alive with insects and birds to feed on them.

This site was reported to be even more spectacular in the past when the abundance of Siamese crocodiles meant that "hundreds of tiny jewels could be seen floating on the lake's surface". These jewels were, in fact, pairs of crocodile eyes shining in the moonlight.

Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam

Established in 1969, Cuc Phuong National Park was the first national park to be gazetted in Vietnam.

The park is located in Ninh Binh province in the far north of the Greater Annamites ecoregion. Cuc Phuong plays host to large numbers of both Vietnamese and international tourists each year and is considered as one of the country's premier national parks.

In addition to protecting the area’s stunning limestone scenery and its ecosystems, the park also plays an important role in rehabilitating and studying the wildlife of the region through it's rescue and breeding programmes. The park currently focuses on three areas: primates, turtles and Owston's Palm civets.

Nakai-Nam Theun National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, Laos

Nakai - Nam Theun is the largest of 18 National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (NBCA) created by the Government of Lao P.D.R. in 1993. The hyphenation links the region's major river - Nam Theun - with its most distinctive feature, the Nakai Plateau.

The plateau is a relatively flat area at 500-600m altitude, covered by a mixture of agricultural land and forest, including pine forest. Besides its biological wealth, the area has become famous in recent times for the controversial dam construction plans nearby on the Nam Theun river.

Whilst significant portions of the plateau have been converted to agriculture, there are large areas covered by a thick carpet of forest. This relatively undisturbed habitat is rich in wildlife, both in terms of numbers and diversity. It is this sheer number of individuals that provides the food for Nakai - Nam Theun's famously large carnivore population. In August 1999 a new species of rabbit, the striped rabbit (Nesolagus timminsi), was discovered in this area.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park (Vietnam), and Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area (Laos)

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam is probably most famous for its primates, and in particular langurs such as the stunning red-shanked douc langur and the unique Ha Tinh langurs. An unusual species of porcupine was also recently found here and as yet has not been recorded anywhere else in the world.

The shafts of limestone karst that characterise this area provide both stunning views and excellent protection. The extremely steep and rugged limestone peaks make many areas impenetrable to man - but by forcing plant roots into tiny cracks, the forest is able to colonize all but the steepest slopes. This natural fortress provides the perfect home for agile primates and many other forest dwellers.

This area is home to three similar langurs - the Hatinh langur, the Lao langur, and the black langur. All three subspecies are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Lao P.D.R. provides a solid line of protected limestone forest which straddles the Vietnam-Lao P.D.R. border.

The area supports a huge range of rare and endangered species, including species totally restricted to this patch of limestone. It also provides a home to a number of different ethnic groups, including the Ruc people - many of whom still live in the many caves found in the area.

Pu Mat National Park, Vietnam

Pu Mat may be Vietnam's best-studied national park. A detailed inventory of the biodiversity of this remote pocket of highly intact forest has been established.

Located in the north of the Greater Annamites ecoregion, along the international border between Lao P.D.R. and Vietnam, the steep terrain as well as the size and remoteness of this area have protected the wildlife of Pu Mat from the extensive exploitation found in many other areas.

Without this intact habitat, species such as Asian elephant, tiger and saola would probably no longer be found in Pu Mat.

However, with the ever increasing population of the region, this wildlife is coming under increasing threat. The National Park is currently working to safeguard this biodiversity while also ensuring the livelihoods of local communities.

The elephant population of Pu Mat is particularly important given the dwindling populations across the ecoregion, particularly in Vietnam. These forest giants are said to cross into and out of the national park across the international border with Lao P.D.R..

One of the major issues that the national park must deal with is human/elephant conflict that arise from the elephant's movements and needs. As populated areas have extended further and further into the forest, interactions between elephants and local communities have increased.

These days, elephants of Pu Mat come into regular contact with people as they emerge from the receding forest into agricultural land. This plentiful harvest is enticing to elephants and a herd can decimate a farmer’s crops land in a very short time

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions