Nam Bai Cat Tien National Park
II (National Park)
4.05.01 (Indochinese Rainforest)
Located in southern Viet Nam in Dong Nai Province, Tan Phu District, 120km north-east of Ho Chi Minh City. The eastern boundary is defined by the Dong Nai River. 1020'-1132'N, 10711'-10728'E
DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT
Established as a Forest Reserve under Decision No. 360/TTg of the Council of Ministers on 7 July 1978. Proposed as a Biosphere Reserve under the Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1989.
The reserve overlooks the flat country of the Mekong floodplain around Ho Chi Minh City from the western foothills of a massif that ultimately rises to Chu Yang Sin (2,405m) some 150km to the north-east. The reserve lies on the southern and western bank of a bend in the Dong Nai River, shortly before it emerges from the foothills of the southern highland massif of the Dihinh and Lang Bian plateaux. The higher ground in the reserve lies to the south and west (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989). A small, permanent freshwater lake and a large area of seasonal lakes and marshes surrounded by seasonally flooded swamp forest is included in the reserve. The riparian lowlands of the Dong Nai River are to the south. About 3,000-5,000ha of these lowlands are flooded during the rainy season (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989) and three lakes are formed: Fish, Bird and Crocodile. Only Crocodile Lake (30-50ha), in the centre of the reserve, retains water throughout the dry season. A hydro-electric dam has recently been constructed at Tri An on the Dong Nai River, downstream of the reserve. The dam will flood large areas of forest to the south of the reserve, and the shallow end of the reservoir will extend to within a few kilometres of the reserve boundary (Scott, 1989). Underlying geology comprises basaltic and granite hills with basaltic soils, and alluvial soils on the lowlands (F. Ramade, pers. comm., 1984).
Tropical monsoonal with a pronounced November to April dry season and May to October wet season. Mean annual rainfall is 2,435mm, mean annual temperature is 25.5C and mean relative humidity is 80% (Scott, 1989).
- PHYSICAL FEATURES
No information on the aquatic vegetation is available. The seasonally flooded grassland is dominated by Saccharum spontaneum and Negradia neyraudiana and the swamp forest by Hydrocarpus anthelmintica mixed with Ficus benjamica (Scott, 1989). The wetland is bounded to the east, south and west by dense humid evergreen forest with Dipterocarpus spp., such as D. alatus, D. dyeri and Anisoptera costata, as well as Shorea spp. and Hopea spp., coinciding with deep alluvial soils at lower altitudes. Hills, and shallow latosols, support semi-evergreen and deciduous forest with Lagerstroemia calyculata and Leguminosae such as Afzelia xylocarpa, Dalbergia bariensis, D. cochinensis and Pterocarpus pedatus. Extensive areas of pure bamboo brakes Bambusa procera and B. arundinaceae and other species are found to the north and south. Some 445 species, in 300 genera and 109 families have been recorded including endemic Dipterocarpus bandii and Dracontomelum schmidii (Trung, 1988). A high diversity of orchids Orchidaceae has been found, particularly in the wetland area, with some 62 species in 28 genera recorded, including 17 Dendrobium spp., six Sarcanthus spp., four Eria spp. and four Bulbophyllum spp. (Tam, 1988). Land to the north is cultivated, mainly for rice production (Scott, 1989).
There is a strong possibility that Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus (E) occurs. Five individuals were thought to be present in 1983, but recent surveys indicate that perhaps 10-15 animals survive in the area (Schaller, 1989). The forest provides a refuge for a number of other threatened or unusual species including black gibbon Hylobates concolor (I), elephant Elephas maximus (E), tiger Panthera tigris (E), leopard P. pardus (V), clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa, gaur Bos gaurus (V), banteng B. banteng, deer Cervus spp., Indian muntjac Muntiacus muntjak and wild boar Sus scrofa. This is the only location in mainland South-east Asia where southern douc langur Pygathrix nemaeus nigripes is still recorded (J. MacKinnon, pers. comm., 1987). Reports of kouprey Bos sauveli (E) being found in the reserve (Trung, 1985) are disputed (MacKinnon, 1986). Crocodile lake was formerly a breeding area for a large number of Siamese crocodile Crocodylus siamensis (E), possibly numbering thousands, but the species is now uncommon. Other reptiles include monitor lizard Varanus sp. (Scott, 1989) and a preliminary list of amphibians and reptiles is given by Thang (1988). Over 130 bird species have been recorded out of an estimated total of 230 resident and wintering species (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989). Avifauna includes peafowl Pavo muticus (V), Siamese fireback Lophura diardi (K), endemic Germain's peacock-pheasant Polyplectron germainii (K), endemic red-vented bulbul Magalaima lagrandieri, Indian darter Anhinga melanogaster, milky stork Mycteria cinerea (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989; Morris, 1987; Vo Quy, pers. comm., 1988) and a wide variety of resident and migratory waterfowl. Groups of 10-20 lesser adjutant storks Leptoptilos javanicus have been observed, and the species is said to breed in the centre of the marsh along with various herons and egrets. Woolly-necked stork Ciconia episcopus has also been reported in recent years. Other waterbirds are listed in Scott (1989). Some migratory ducks are present during winter. The reserve is also rich in birds of prey including several species associated with the wetlands, such as osprey Pandion haliaetus, black kite Milvus migrans, brahminy kite Haliastur indus, grey-headed fishing eagle Ichthyophaga icthyaetus, crested serpent eagle Spilornis cheela and red-legged falconet Microhierax caerulescens (Scott, 1989). An annotated but incomplete bird species list is given by Morris (1988).
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION
Stieng, Ma, Ta Lai and Cho'ro tribes have lived in the central valley of the reserve for several centuries, and several hundred people are currently resident (Morris, 1987). Principal means of livelihood are fishing and hunting within the reserve and fishing, hunting and shifting agriculture in surrounding areas (Scott, 1989). The adjacent areas of Dong Nai Province on the east bank of the river, and of Lam Dong Province on the north bank, are New Economic Zones, created since 1975. The ethnic Vietnamese agricultural population is still growing by immigration and has cleared much of the forest outside the reserve. There are plans to resettle the 100-200 Vietnamese in the extreme north of the reserve who are growing sugar cane and rice on about 3,000ha (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989).
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES
The reserve is accessible all year round and development of tourism is envisaged for the future (Thai van Trung, pers. comm., 1989).
- CULTURAL HERITAGE
Studies to compare primary forest with secondary forest damaged by defoliants in the war have been undertaken (F. Ramade, pers. comm., 1984). Several faunal and botanical studies have been undertaken and the Forest Ecology Group of the Botanical Museum in Ho Chi Minh City has carried out many investigations in the reserve since 1982 (Scott, 1989). From April 1977 to January 1979, the Zoological Investigation Group of the Forestry Department's Institute of Investigation and Management carried out basic research in the reserve. Preliminary zoological surveys have also been undertaken by the Faculty of Biology of the University of Ho Chi Minh City during May 1984, April 1984, April 1987 and November 1987. This work indicates that Nam Ba Cat Tien supports a wide variety of fauna characteristic to the region, which, in the light of development activities in the immediate environs, is increasingly concentrating in the protected area. However, these studies have tended to focus on relatively limited areas of the reserve and there is no full inventory of flora and fauna (Trung, 1988). An observation platform was constructed at the marsh in 1987 and there are plans to build a museum and research station capable of accommodating twenty people (Scott, 1989).
The area is valued as a representative of the types of forest largely destroyed by chemical warfare (Trung, 1985) and it has considerable potential for scientific research, conservation education and tourism. The recent confirmation of the presence of Javan rhinoceros emphasises the importance of Nam Ba Cat Tien, for the only other location in which the species is known to exist is Ujong Kulon National Park on the western tip of Java. In response the Vietnamese government has established a working group to promote the conservation of the species (Schaller, 1989). Protection of the reserve has been entrusted to the Dong Nai Provincial Forestry Department. The forestry protection staff are mainly concerned with the prevention of fires and illegal felling of trees, and there is no management of the wetland (Scott, 1989). Following revision of staffing arrangements in 1988 the best forest areas in the east may now have the most effective protection of any reserve in the country (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989). Five guard posts have been established at Daklua, Da Co, Ben Cu, Nui Tuong and Ta Lai, all on the banks of the Dong Nai River (Trung, 1988). In 1986 a new track was created from the entrance to the control post at Da Co in the extreme east, and to Crocodile Lake. Traffic on a motor track through the reserve is restricted to sugar cane transport, which is projected to cease in 1989 (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989). It is proposed to relocate and settle the Ta Lai and Cho'ro tribesmen outside the reserve (Thai van Trung, pers. comm., 1989), and in 1986 some farmers living in the south-east were relocated across the boundary (Morris, 1987). Areas on either side of the road from Ben Cu to Talai, in the south of the reserve, which had been cleared for rice and sugar cane cultivation are now being reforested using techniques developed at the nearby Ma Da forest. This entails establishing native hardwood species under a protective canopy of Acacia spp. (Thai van Trung, 1988). The techniques of reforestation at Ma Da, following chemical defoliation, is further discussed by Kemf (1988). There have been proposals to try re-establish original grassland cover in areas near Crocodile Lake for the benefit of grazing wildlife (G. E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989). The site has been proposed for national park status, and biosphere reserve status under the Unesco Man and the Biosphere Programme (Trung, pers. comm., 1989). Principal recommendations emerging from a National Workshop, supported by Unesco, included termination of all economic activities within the reserve; an increase in reserve staff and the establishment of more control posts; and the extension of the reserve to include the wetland areas of Bac Cat Tien to the north-east. The Ministry of Forestry has made plans for the establishment of a National Park during the 1986-1990 five-year plan (Scott, 1989). The extent to which these recommendations and proposals have been implemented is not known.
- SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES
Excessive hunting and fires due to honey collection during the dry season are the only threats to the wetland. The principal threat to the remainder of the reserve is human population growth and consequently increased exploitation of the forest and its wildlife for timber, food and profit. Most of the area was sprayed with chemical defoliants during the war and since then much of the forest has been heavily exploited for timber and cleared for agriculture (Scott, 1989). Following the war North Vietnamese army units were allowed to plant rice and sugar cane in the north and south-east and also outside the reserve to the south of the Dong Nai River. Since then the human population has increased considerably and populations of large animals such as rhinoceros, elephant, gaur, crocodile and macaques have declined. Wardening is insufficient and in 1987 there was still widespread shooting and fishing in the wetland areas and burning of adjacent grassland (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989) as well as illegal felling of valuable timber trees (Morris, 1987). The growing population outside the reserve will be a cause for concern unless access across the river can be regulated (G.E. Morris, pers. comm., 1989).
Thirty-five forest wardens for forest protection (Trung, pers. comm., 1989).
In December 1987 the Dong Nai Forestry Department agreed to set aside as much as 10% of its profits from forest exploitation in the Province for the development of the reserve (Scott, 1989).
Dong Nai Forestry Department
- MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
May 1987; reviewed September 1989
- The re-greening of Vietnam. New Scientist 1618: 53-57
- Kemf, E. (1988).
- Bid to save the kouprey. WWF Monthly Report 1986: 91-97.
- MacKinnon, J. (1986).
- News of Nam Cat Tien. Garrulax 2: 3-5.
- Morris, G.E. (1987).
- Recent sight records of birds at Nam Cat Tien. Garrulax, 4: 11-13.
- Morris, G.E. (1988).
- Vietnam: rare rhino rediscovered. Animal Kingdom 92(4): 14.
- Schaller, G. (1989).
- A directory of Asian wetlands. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 1181 pp.
- Scott, D.A. (ed.). (1989).
- A preliminary list of epiphyte orchids at Nam Cat Tien Forest Reserve. Garrulax 4: 10.
- Tam, Truong Quang (1988).
- Preliminary list of reptiles and amphibia in Nam Cat Tien Forest Reserve. Garrulax 5: 8-9
- Thang, Nguyen Quoc (1988).
- The development of a protected area system in Vietnam (condensed from an original paper presented in French). In Thorsell, J.W. (ed.). Conserving Asia's natural heritage. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 251 pp.
- Trung, Thai van (1985).
- The general features of 'oecogenic factors' and vegetation types in the tropical lowland mixed dipterocarp rain forest ecosystems, at Nam Cat Tien Forest Reserve. Garrulax 4: 6-9.
- Trung, Thai van (1988).