The Land - Wildlife - National Parks - Environmental Issues

War On The Environment


Despite some disastrous bouts of deforestation, Vietnam's flora and fauna is as exotic, abundant and varied as any tropical country. Scientists are only just beginning to effectively catalogue the country's plant and animal life, and the government is showing some determined enthusiasm for ecological conservation.
On paper, Vietnam has plenty to offer to those who are wild about wildlife, but in reality many of the animals live in remote forested areas and an encounter is extremely unlikely. A lot of the wildlife is rapidly disappearing, thanks to population pressures and the destruction of habitats. Hunting, poaching and pollution have taken their toll, too. With a wide range of habitats - from equatorial lowlands to high, temper ate plateaus and even alpine peaks - the wildlife of Vietnam is enormously diverse. It is home to 275 species of mammaL more than 800 species of bird,180 species of reptile, 80 species of amphibian, hundreds of species offish and thousands of species of invertebrates. Every now and then Vietnam throws up a new creature that manages to elude scientific classification. Since Vietnam reopened for business around 1990, zoologists have discovered several previously unknown species of large mammal in Vietnam, including a new breed of muntjac deer in 1998. The scientific and conservation value of these recent discoveries has not been lost on authorities, and the Vietnamese government has been expanding the size of national parks and nature reserves, and banning Jogging within these areas. As research and conservation efforts gather pace, Vietnam may turn out to be a treasure chest of undiscovered species. Rare and little-known birds previously thought to be extinct have been spotted and no doubt there are more in the extensive forests along the Lao border- Edwards' pheasant, previously believed to be extinct, was found on a scientific expedition, and other excursions have yielded the white-winged wood duck and white-shouldered ibis. Even casual visitors will spot a few bird species: swallows and swifts flying over fields and along watercourses; flocks of finches at roadsides and in paddies; and bulbuls and mynahs in gardens and patches of forest.Vietnam is on the east-Asian flyway and is an important stopover for migratory waders en route from Siberian breeding grounds to their Australian winter quarters.
Tragically,Vietnam’s wildlife has been in deadly decline as forest habitats are destroyed and waterways polluted, In addition, widespread illegal hunting has exterminated local animal populations, in some cases wiping out entire specise.Conimued deforestation and poaching means that many endangered species are a one-way ticket to extinction. Captive-breeding programmes may be the only hope for some. Officially, the government has recognised 54 species of mammal and 60 species of bird as endangered. The tapir and Sumatran rhinoceros are already extinct in Vietnam. In the early 1990s a small population of Javan rhinos (the world’s rarest rhinoceros) was discovered in Cat Tien National Park, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), but there are probably just 10 to 20 left in the entire country. Larger animals crucial to the country's conservation efforts include the elephant, tiger, leopard, black bear, honey bear, snub-nosed monkey, flying squirrel, crocodile and turtle-In a positive sign, some wildlife populations are re-establishing themselves in reforested areas. Birds, fish and crustaceans have reappeared in replanted mangrove forests. Areas in which large animals were thought to have been wiped out by war are now hot spots of biodiversity and abundance- The extensive forests of the central highlands and far north remain a home to some of nature's most noble creatures, such as the tiger, Asian elephant, clouded Jeopard and sun bear. Their chance of survival rests in the balance, as Vietnam's population continues to expand, eating up more and more of rile remaining wilderness areas. Only when the population learns to live in harmony with nature rather than live off the environment will the situation improve
Years ago Vietnam was blanketed in forest, from vast mangrove fringing the coast to dense rainforest in the mountainous regions. Over the centuries the forests have progressively been pushed back: first by the clearing of land for cultivation, and later by a booming population and the ravages of war. Although the scars of war are still visible and much of the damage is long-term, reforestation programmes have been implemented and today some of the landscape is showing signs of recovery. Natural forests at higher elevations, such as those in the northwest, feature wild rhododendrons, dwarf bamboo and many varieties of orchid; the central coast is drier and features stands of pine; while the river deltas support mangrove forests, which are valuable nurseries for fish and crustaceans, as well as feeding sites for many bird species. The remaining forests of Vietnam are estimated to contain more than 12,000 plant species, only around 7000 of which have been identified and 2300 of which are known to be valuable to humanity. Recently the islands and caves of Halong Bay yielded seven previously unknown plants - the largest and most conspicuous of the new flora has been christened the Halong Fan Palm. The Vietnamese make good use of the plants around them for medicines and remedies. Locals forage in the forests for barks, roots, herbs and flowers, which go into making cures for all sorts of ailments.