Son Tra Nature Reserve biodiversity threatened

VietNamNet Bridge – Overlapping efforts and poor management among agencies pose serious threats to biodiversity in the Son Tra Nature Reserve, a biologist said during a dialogue on protecting the red-shanked douc langur.

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A langur is found dead after falling into a trap in the Son Tra Nature Reserve in Da Nang. — VNS Photo Bui Van Tuan

The Da Nang-based reserve is home to 300 red-shanked douc langurs, which are critically endangered and found only in east-central Laos and Viet Nam. The animals are further threatened by illegal logging and rampant hunting.

Poor management resulted in the illegal logging of 10ha of forest in an area intended for local residents to use for commercial purposes. The case was only discovered when biologists from the Biodiversity Conservation Centre of GreenViet, an NGO in Da Nang, took a field trip to the area.

An effective management board is essential to monitor forest protection and the disaster response measures.

However, the reserve has yet to establish a management board, as other reserves have done nationwide. It is being managed by different agencies, including the Son Tra-Ngu Hanh Son forest protection sub-department; Tho Quang Ward’s administration; Son Tra peninsula’s management board of beaches and tourism; and the Border Guard, Air Defence and Navy.

GreenViet director Tran Huu Vy criticised the fact that each agency only manages one assigned area, and they do not work together to handle common problems and threats. He added that agencies should more closely monitor visitors at the reserve entrance.

“(Both residents and tourists) need to be supervised at the entrance into the reserve,” Vy said. “Loggers or poachers could come to the protected forest easily if they do not have a check-in procedure at the control post.”

Vy, who spent over 10 years researching biodiversity in the Son Tra Nature Reserve, said illegal hunters would use steel wire traps and handmade air guns to kill wild animals for money. A live animal could earn an illegal hunter VND6 million (US$285).

In 2015, five hunters from Nghe An Province were arrested after they were caught with 100 traps, as well as a bag of dried meat and the bones of three red-shanked doucs.

The illegal hunters admitted that they had spent one month in the forest of Son Tra to hunt langurs.

The nature reserve has shrunk from over 4,400ha to 2,500ha to make room for the development of dozens of resorts and hotel projects in the area.

According to GreenViet’s latest survey, over 20 streams in the reserve have dried up – the worst it has seen in 20 years.

Vu Ngoc Thanh, a representative of the US-based Douc Langur Foundation, which operates as an NGO in Viet Nam, said the Son Tra Nature Reserve is a precious treasure of Da Nang that needs a special protection policy.

“You could not find any place like Son Tra Nature Reserve, as visitors can watch the endangered primates at close range any time of the year, even in bad weather conditions,” Thanh said.

He said scientists and biologists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) agreed to list the red-shanked douc langur as critically endangered with unlimited protection status in the world. The IUCN had previously listed the animal as endangered in 2013.

He said Da Nang should choose the red-shanked douc langur as its symbol for promoting the rich biodiversity of the Son Tra Nature Reserve to the rest of the world.

Vy also suggested that the city create a special programme to protect biodiversity in the forest, as well as form an effective and uniform management team to handle illegal hunting and logging.

“It’s an urgent action, or biodiversity in the reserve will soon dwindle,” Vy said. “A checkpoint should be set up to control visitors at three main entrances into the Son Tra reserve, because over 10,000 visitors come to the reserve monthly.”

Nguyen Thi Hien, from the city’s Natural Resources and Environment Department, said the city has approved a plan through 2030 on the protection of biodiversity in Son Tra Nature Reserve.

She said the city plans to make the red-shanked douc langur the city’s symbol of biodiversity at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit (APEC) in Da Nang next year.  

A series of communication campaigns and education programmes on the protection of the red-shanked douc langur were launched by GreenViet and the Douc Langur Foundation at primary schools in Da Nang.

The Son Tra Nature Reserve, which is 600m above sea level, is known for its rich biodiversity, with 287 animal species and 985 plant species.

Despite an action plan outlined by the city administration, biologists and volunteers from GreenViet and rangers dismantled over 2,000 traps in the reserve, and continued to find traces of illegal hunting and logging in the area.

GreenViet is also co-operating with the Frankfurt Zoological Society of Germany, San Diego Zoo Global in the United States and the IUCN to protect the red-shanked douc langurs through long-term campaigns.

related news

Da Nang launches campaign to protect endangered langurs

Red-shanked douc in Da Nang threatened by tourism project

In pictures: 'Queen of primates' on Son Tra peninsula


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