Ecology

Cat Tien is a biodiversity hotspot in Vietnam, harbouring the last known population of Javan rhinos in mainland Southeast Asia. The project is addressing a number of threats by strengthening law enforcement, habitat management and rationalising park boundaries following the completion of several ecological and socio-economic studies. At the same time, the project assists people living in the park’s bufferzones with small scale community development activities.

A major conservation education campaign will raise awareness and promote a conservation agenda in the wider landscape so that the park’s ecological links with surrounding protected and unprotected forests are strengthened.

Background

Around 10,000 people live inside Cat Tien National Park. These people belong to the Kinh, Tay, Chau Ma and Stieng ethnic groups. Around 160,000 people live in and around the buffer zone. Most of the inhabitants of the buffer zone can be grouped into indigenous ethnic minorities (the Chau Ma and Stieng), and ethnic minorities who have recently migrated from provinces in northern Vietnam (including the Tay, Nung, Dao and Hmong), and Kinh settlers who have moved to the area since 1975. Each of these groups have different land-use strategies and different impacts on the natural resources of the national park.

There are substantial movements of people within the buffer zone of the national park as local authorities attempt to relocate ethnic minority groups from forest areas to non-forest areas. These movements have sometimes been preceded by extensive forest clearance in the buffer zones in order to make land available for resettlement and the establishment of cash crops. For example, 429 ha. in Tu Nghia Commune was prepared by the New Economic Zone Office in Cat Tien District, Lam Dong Province, a process that involved extensive forest clearance.

Key conservation issues at the national park include:

  1. Forest land being converted to agricultural land, reducing the area of habitat for globally threatened species, such as Javan Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Gaur and Orange-necked Partridge. This conversion is being undertaken by people residing within the national park boundaries, especially in the Cat Loc sector, which supports the Javan Rhinoceros population.
  2. Illegal exploitation of timber, rattan, mammals, birds and fish is still taking place inside the national park.
  3. Land within the national park designated as agricultural land is not under the management of the national park management board, which only controls land designated as forest land.

Plans exist to construct 2 hydro-electric dams, the Dong Nai 3 and Dong Nai 4, on the Dong Nai river, upstream of Cat Tien National Park. Such developments may cause a reduction in the peak discharge of the Dong Nai river. A high peak discharge is required to cause a reversal of flow in the Dak Lua stream and thus to supply the wetlands in the north of the Nam Cat Tien sector with water. Construction of the dams may, therefore, lead to a reduction in the size of these important wetlands, with implications for migratory and resident waterbird species, fish species, and grazing mammals.

The justification for CTNPCP remains largely unchanged since project inception for the following reasons:

  • The park affords protection to an important area of lowland dipterocarp forest including a large area of intact lagerstroemia/dipterocarp forest.
  • Cat Loc harbours the last population of Javan rhino in mainland Asia. This species is the most endangered large mammal species in the world; without strict protection measures, swiftly implemented, local extinction is likely to occur. The park also supports a number of red book listed species, including Asian elephant, gaur, Germaine’s peacock pheasant and Green Peafowl. Tiger is thought to occur in small numbers in the Cat Loc sector of the park. The national park also support 34 species of vascular plant listed in the Vietnam red book.
  • Nam Cat Tien harbours an important and unique wetland, where the globally threatened Siamese crocodile formerly occurred, and where a re-introduction programme for this species has recently been undertaken. The wetlands also plays a key role in sustaining the ecology of the national park, for example, by providing grazing resources for large mammals (such as Gaur Bos gaurus) and feeding habitats for waterbirds and fish-dependent species.
  • The National Park covers a substantial part of the Dong Nai river basin. The forests of the park play an important role in protecting the watershed of this river, and may well help to reduce the severity of flooding downstream. The forests of the Nam Cat Tien sector of the park also protect the catchment of the Tri An Reservoir. Watershed protection functions are therefore likely to be important to Dong Nai province in economic terms.
  • People living inside the boundaries of the national park pose an important threat to the integrity of the National Park. Encroachment within the boundaries of the park is significant in some areas. Unsustainable removal of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and hunting of wildlife (for consumption and trade) also pose significant threats to the integrity of the national park

Objectives

The remaining forests of Cat Tien National Park (CTNP) and adjacent forest areas are effectively conserved to sustain biodiversity, protect the water catchments of the Tri An reservoir and Dong Nai river and to provide benefits for local people living around the National Park.

The overall objective is therefore largely consistent with the aims of the Vietnam Government’s Forest Sector Support Programme, but with an emphasis at site and landscape level.

4 result areas will be pursued to support the achievement of the overall objective of the CTNP conservation project (CTNPCP). These are:

  1. Effective protection of CTNP
    The focus is on the core zone of the national park, including core forest protection, boundary demarcation, habitat and species management, research and monitoring, as well as continuing liaison and cooperation with key stakeholders of CTNP.
  2. Human impacts reduced to sustainable levels
    Address direct human impacts on the core zone of CTNP, including the impact of local people, tourists and educational conservation activities.
  3. Landscape level strategy to support the management of CTNP
    Provide support for activities at landscape level and more widely, the South East Vietnam agro-ecological region. Support will be prioritised for activities where a) they may have a direct or indirect positive impact on conservation of the park, such as forest protection, control of wildlife trade, biodiversity surveys, management planning, exchange visits and capacity building, or b) where existing expertise and capacity of CTNP can make an important contribution to other stakeholders within the landscape and wider agro-ecological zone. Support delivered under this result area will also provide an opportunity to support other Special-use Forest management boards in the agro-ecological zone, including (specifically) the development of management plans and operational budgets for 3 priority Special-use Forests (Lo Go Sa Mat Nature Reserve, Bi Dup-Nui Ba Nature Reserve and Bu Gia Map Nature Reserve). Support to other Special-use Forest management boards under this result area might include providing technical and financial support for high priority Special-use Forests in the agro-ecological zone, guard-to guard training of forest rangers, and provision of habitat management advice.
  4. Effective institutional and administrative support, including integration of budgets and work programmes between CTNPCP and CTNP
    Provide ongoing support for the effective management of budget and work programming procedures at CTNP, to support the process of improving the integration of CTNP and CTNPCP budgets, working towards joint budget and work programming for the 2003 financial year.

Source: WWF Global