11 Mar 2015

New hope for Vietnam’s forests

Red-shanked Douc Langur will benefit from this new agreement (J C Eames)
By Martin Fowlie

BirdLife's Forests of Hope programme aims to achieve large-scale forest conservation and restoration to benefit of people and nature. The programme focuses on developing and supporting innovative and locally appropriate approaches to forest governance, management and finance and includes 19 sites globally. The conservation prospects at one particular Forests of Hope site have just had a huge lift.

The survival of North-Central Vietnam’s lowland forests - one of South-East Asia’s richest biodiversity hotspots - have been boosted thanks to an innovative new agreement that aims to see such forests protected.

At a special ceremony on the 5th of February, a 30-year environmental lease of 768 ha of lowland broadleaved evergreen forest at Dong Chau – Khe Nuoc Trong Forest – was signed between members of the Viet Nature Conservation Centre (an independent NGO) and local Vietnamese authorities and environmental officials. It is the first partnership agreement of its kind in Vietnam.

The announcement may have come just in time. Once Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi occurred widely in the lowlands of North-Central Vietnam but now, Critically Endangered and with no confirmed sightings since 2000, its survival prospects were bleak. It is one of many species in North-Central Vietnam -including the Saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis (a Critically Endangered forest antelope) and Red-shanked Douc Langur Pygathrix nemaeus (an Endangered primate) that had alerted BirdLife scientists and government officials through their declines that this important forest habitat was facing increasing pressure from illegal logging and hunting and trapping of wild animals for international trade.

“The 30 year duration shows our long term interest and commitment in supporting biodiversity conservation in Truong Son Key Biodiversity Area”, said Mr. Le Trong Trai, Director of the Viet Nature Conservation Centre.

Being the first Forests of Hope site in Vietnam, the agreement represents a major achievement for Viet Nature and for BirdLife International.

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The project is supported financially by BirdLife (with funding from Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and BirdLife Gala Dinner 2013), IUCN Netherlands Committee and the World Land Trust.