Mainland Southeast Asia

Mainland Southeast Asia harbors a significant proportion of the world's rare and endemic species.

Over the past 20 years, the country of Vietnam has ramped up its efforts to study and conserve its rich diversity of plants and animals, as many species are threatened or endangered by some of the world's fastest rates of both human population growth and deforestation. In the 1990s, the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recommended that the forested area within the National Protected Area System be increased from 1.3 million to two million hectares.

In 1998, the CBC initiated a research program in Vietnam to inform the government's decisions concerning the location and expansion of protected forest areas. The program — with participation from multiple partners — was unprecedented for its degree of collaboration among research institutions, the variety of scientific disciplines involved, and the immediacy with which research results were translated into conservation action.

Biodiversity Exploration and Monitoring

Over the course of eight field seasons, the CBC scientific team discovered new species of amphibians, small mammals, invertebrates, and birds, improving our understanding of Vietnam's biodiversity. In 2000, using self-triggering "camera traps," CBC-trained Vietnamese scientists confirmed the existence of a species of otter thought to have been extinct in Vietnam for several decades. The CBC team also mapped the distribution of biodiversity in several proposed protected areas, and worked with people living near these sites to study resource use.

In the fall of 2005, CBC scientists, along with in-country partners IEBR and WWF Indochina, completed a survey in Thua-Thien-Huế Province to assess priority areas for conservation in a "green corridor" connecting Bach Ma National Park to Phong Dien Proposed Nature Reserve. They recorded eight threatened species and several new amphibian records.

During the survey, the team interviewed local hunters and directly identified and mapped trade routes for illegal hunting and logging. Preliminary results were presented to the Director of the Forest Protection Department of Thua-Thien-Huế, who incorporated their suggestions into the conservation plan for the Province.

Building Capacities for Conservation

As part of the project, the CBC provided in-country training for conservation specialists in the use of biodiversity informatics techniques — tools critical for assessing Vietnam's highly fragmented but globally significant habitats. In spring 2006, staff of the CBC and Vermont's Gund Institute conducted a workshop on watershed modeling for the Song Bung IV dam tobe constructed in Quang Nam Province. In spring 2007 the CBC held workshops on conservation monitoring as part of its MacArthur initiative in the Central Highlands of Vietnam and Lao PDR. These workshops brought together participants from government agencies, NGOs, and universities. All materials were translated into Vietnamese and Laotian and were distributed throughout the region.

Vietnam: A Natural History

2006 marked the publication of the award-winning book Vietnam: A Natural History by Yale University Press. Authored by the then CBC Director Dr. Eleanor J. Sterling along with former CBC scientists Drs. Martha M. Hurley and Le Duc Minh, this is the first book geared toward a general audience that summarizes recent research of Vietnam's wildlife and wildlands. The Vietnamese version of the book was published by Lotus Press in spring 2007, and has been distributed to libraries, conservation organizations, and professionals throughout Vietnam.     

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