Cat Ba, a sanctuary for endangered species

VietNamNet Bridge – With unspoiled beaches, ancient fishing villages, hundreds of serene islands covered with dense greenery and a national park with a diverse range of wild species, the Cat Ba Archipelago is truly a hidden gem for those in love with natural beauty. Hong Van reports.



Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

Sight to behold: There are currently just 60 langur individuals left, and the animals are known to only live on the island of Cat Ba, according to the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project.


Kayaking through the crystal waters of Lan Ha, a small bay lying to the northeast of Cat Ba Archipelago, 30 kilometres from the port city of Hai Phong, one has the opportunity to glimpse the white-headed langur, a species endemic to the archipelago and now found nowhere else on earth.

The Cat Ba langur, as it is commonly called, often sleeps in the caves and seeks food around the mountains – leaves, fresh shoots, flowers, tree barks and some fruits that are not palatable to humans. Visitors, therefore, can have a chance to see them as they travel among the islands.  

There are currently just 60 langur individuals left, and the animals are known to only live on the islands of Cat Ba, according to the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project.

The langur has become a symbol for the archipelago. The Cat Ba langur population is scattered around the islands in several isolated sub-populations. Some of these include all-female groups with no access to males and are therefore non-reproducing social units, according to the project.  

Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

On the water: Neahga Leonard (Second, Right), manager of Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project went on a field trip to study the conditions of the Cat Ba langur. Cat Ba archipelago is under the close management of Cat Ba National Park, the Management Board of Cat Ba Bay and the Management Board of Cat Ba Heritage.


Besides the langur, the Cat Ba Archipelago has more than 3,800 other species of insular and marine fauna and flora. Among them, 130 rare species are named in the Viet Nam and World Red Lists, among which, 76 species are found in the rare category of the IUCN, and 21 species are endemic.

With the rich values of natural beauty and biodiversity of the Cat Ba archipelago and shared marine ecosystem with world heritage Ha Long Bay, Hai Phong City is working with Quang Ninh Province to finalise a dossier to nominate Ha Long-Cat Ba as an expanded World Heritage Site.

Ha Long-Cat Ba is currently on the Tentative List at UNESCO and the application will be sent to the Viet Nam cultural agency by February next year.

“The Cat Ba Archipelago is a highly bio-diverse centre with several especially rare species which have universal value. It is considered the most bio-diverse area in Viet Nam,” said professor Do Cong Thung from the Institute of Marine and Environment Resources in a leadership meeting held by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Hai Phong on May 5. 

“We recognise the unprecedented joint efforts of the two localities [Quang Ninh Province and Hai Phong City] in collaborating to renominate Ha Long-Cat Ba. The biodiversity is no longer restrained in the territorial limit,” said Pham Ngoc Thanh Huong, Culture Specialist from UNESCO Viet Nam, at the meeting.

The Ha Long-Cat Ba Archipelago extension will be considered under two criteria –aesthetic value and geomorphic and physiographic value, and additionally two bio-diversity criteria, for a new World Heritage Site (WHS) nomination.

UNESCO has 10 criteria for selecting a WHS. Six of them are for cultural sites and the other four are for natural sites. To be added to the list, a site must be of "outstanding universal value" in at least one criterion.

Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

Save the forest: There are currently different layers of environmental protection in Cat Ba, which include a biosphere reserve with a core zone, buffer zone and transition zone and a national park with special use area.


In 1994, Ha Long Bay was inscribed as a natural WHS under the criterion of aesthetic value and geology.

The combined area of Ha Long Bay and Cat Ba Archipelago is over 770 square kilometres, in which Ha Long Bay World Heritage accounts for 434 sq.km including 775 islands and islets.

The Cat Ba Archipelago is under close management of the three bodies – Cat Ba National Park, the Management Board of Cat Ba Bay and the Management Board of Cat Ba Heritage.

There are currently different layers of environmental protection in Cat Ba, which include a biosphere reserve with a core zone, buffer zone and transition zone and a national park with special use area. Each has specific management requirements and policies, according to Thung.

“Taking the langur as an example. This species, listed as endangered, live mostly in seven areas in Cat Ba; therefore, the Hai Phong authorities have made these seven areas strictly protected and bans any activities that may cause harm to the living and breeding of langur,” said Thung.

“The langur is a very sensitive species. If they smell humans nearby, or even from a kilometre away, they hide themselves or run away, not to mention the effect that construction activities have on the animals. It is necessary to limit development projects here,” said Nguyen Hoang Tri.

Mass tourism – ‘not the ultimate purpose of nomination’

"Most locations enjoy a tourism ‘boom’ after being recognised by UNESCO. But it is crucial to note that increasing tourism, especially mass tourism, is not the main aim of nomination," said Huong.

Viet Nam tends to draw more tourists while some other places are trying to cut down on the number of tourists or even stop tourism entirely, like Santorini (Greece), Koh Khai Nok (Thailand), Machu Pichu (Peru) or the whole of Bhutan, according to Cat Ba Langur Conservation project’s manager, Neahga Leonard.

Currently, Cat Ba welcomes around 1.7 million tourists per year, already more than the number of tourists that many of these other places get. Cat Ba is estimated to have 5-6 million tourists by 2020 and 8 to 10 million by 2030.

“The ultimate purpose of nomination is not for tourism. Normally, we get the title, the site becomes famous and we draw more tourists. Yet we are making a big mistake, not only in Cat Ba, but in nine biosphere areas and five world heritage sites in Viet Nam,” said Nguyen Hoang Tri, general secretary of Viet Nam National Committee for the UNESCO Programme "Man and Biosphere".

“The tourism industry is only a means towards sustainable development. Sometimes, we seem to turn the means into the purpose, leaving cement structures, and not natural beauty, as the legacy for future generations. It is tourism based on community that should be encouraged and invested in,” said Tri.

“Sometimes, we forget the main aim of nomination, which is to conserve the site. Once the site is nominated, the country has to put in place national responsibility and commitment to preserve the site for the international community,” said Bai.

Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

Cycle of life: According to experts, Cat Ba should not develop mass tourism. It is tourism based on the community that should be encouraged and invested in.


Conservation, a core driver of UNESCO recognition

Besides mass tourism development, construction projects in Cat Ba are also a big concern for non-governmental organisations and the conservation community.

A high-end ecological tourism project was launched in Cat Hai District, Hai Phong on May 14th.

Though the project is implemented outside the core zone of the biosphere reserve, the conservation community has concerns about its impact on the environment and biodiversity of the region. This project and others of its kind must be undertaken in a very careful manner.

“UNESCO has strict rules on the presence of projects inside WHS that threaten its outstanding universal values.  We are confident that the relevant authorities will put in place a planning process that ensures that tourism does not threaten these values,” said Acting Country Representative of IUCN Viet Nam, Jake Brunner.

“Many of Viet Nam’s most beautiful coastal areas, including Cat Ba, are being targeted for large-scale tourism development. Viet Nam badly needs investment in tourism but this must be done in ways that don’t damage what’s so special about these places, keeps tourists coming back, and sustains jobs and revenue over the long term,” said Brunner.

As per the 1972 world heritage convention of UNESCO, "the major aim of nomination is to put the property into an international framework of protection," said Huong.

“Nomination is not only a matter of seeking an international title, but to preserve the property, to allow future generations to enjoy it, along with the natural and cultural resources that the country has to offer. This is the aim of world heritage recognition,” she added.

“Tourists come here because Viet Nam has a number of unique qualities that no other place has, especially its natural beauty and culture; and those things are sensitive, once they are damaged, we can’t get them back,” said Leonard.

“Development on this line needs to be taken in a careful and cautious manner.

“Cat Ba has a number of unique and special characteristics, especially natural beauty, biodiversity and endemic species, which are the very reasons [Viet Nam] is considering the expanded WHS nomination.

“We need to be very careful not to damage these particular aspects of Cat Ba,” said Leonard.

“The key thing here is that there is no conflict between conservation and development and tourism. People in the conservation community understand very clearly the need for development and tourism. We encourage and support it but development and tourism should be done in a long-term, responsible and sustainable manner, a manner that follows laws and international guidelines,” said Leonard.

“We can learn from the Trang An case [nomination for Trang An in Ninh Binh Province as a World Heritage Site] – working with investors for sustainable development, persuading them to narrow their projects [in protected areas],” said director of Viet Nam Cultural Heritage Conservation Fund, and representative of Viet Nam National Committee of UNESCO, Dang Van Bai.

“A few years ago, when we were discussing the nomination of Trang An as World Heritage site, some disagreed with the nomination, but one of my points was that if Trang An is not nominated, then the limestone mountains in Ninh Binh [where the site is located] would disappear over the next five years due to rock quarrying in the area,” said Bai.

After Trang An was recognised, the quarries were forced to halt operations and miners moved to other areas.

“This is an example of UNESCO’s active contribution to protecting and preserving WHS.

“In the end, protecting heritage and pushing the economy is just a means to our ultimate goal of sustainable development, for our country and for the next generation.

“It is crucial that we do not sacrifice heritage for economic benefit, yet we also should not let development be hindered by heritage.” 

Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

Lovely langurs: The Cat Ba langurs often sleep in the caves and seek food around the mountains – leaves, fresh shoots, flowers, bark and some fruits that are not palatable to humans. Visitors, therefore, can have a chance to see them as they travel between the islands.



Cat Ba,  national park,  Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam

Popular spot: Currently, Cat Ba welcomes around 1.7 million tourists per year, already more than the number of tourists that many of other similar places get. Cat Ba is estimated to have 5-6 million tourists by 2020 and 8 to 10 million by 2030.


VNS

related news
Cat Ba, national park, Cat Ba National Park, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam
 
*
*
*
  Send