Cuc Phuong National Park
II (National Park)
4.10.04 (Thailandian Monsoon Forest)
Located in the foothills of the northern Annamite Mountains, some 100km south-west of Hanoi. The park comprises parts of Ha Nam Ninh, Ha Son Binh and Thanh Hoa provinces. Approximately 2019'N, 10522'E
DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT
2 July 1962. Cuc Phuong was declared a Forest Reserve in 1960 and was later upgraded to become the first Vietnamese national park (Trung, 1985).
The park comprises a broad flat valley, between two ranges consisting of limestone hills and cliffs. The valley is wide at the western end but narrows to a canyon in the east. To the south and west the park is surrounded by lower, relatively flat and densely populated land. To the north-west, however, the park is bordered by other forested limestone hills leading to the main mountain ranges. The mountains in the area are mostly limestone of the Triassic period, and large underground river and cave systems are found. Hang Dang Cave measures 3-4m in height and over 30m in width at its mouth (Pfeiffer, 1984). Sub-soils comprise Triassic schist layers overlaid with limey premium-ouralian secondary soils showing some signs of recent upheaval and intermixing. Ferralitic deposits impart a reddish colour. Top soils are partly red calcareous, with rendzina and sequential black soils on ridges. Forest soils are generally very shallow and show very fast turnover (MacKinnon, n.d.). The ground rock absorbs all surface water and there is no river draining the valley (Pfeiffer, 1984). There are, however, a number of seasonal water courses (MacKinnon, n.d.).
The climate can be classed as seasonal moist sub-tropical. The mean annual temperature is 21C, with a mean winter temperature of 9C. Maximum and minimum temperatures are 35C and 0.5C, respectively, and frosts probably occur at higher levels. The topography of the park exaggerates both hot and cold temperature extremes. Mean annual rainfall is 2,100mm, with a maximum of 3,300mm recorded in 1963. On average rain falls on 224 days each year. The dry season is November to February, with less than 100mm rainfall in December and January being typical (MacKinnon, n.d.; Pfeiffer, 1984).
- PHYSICAL FEATURES
The primary vegetation of the park is remarkably luxuriant for such a latitude and seasonal climate. Although classified as lowland and sub-montane seasonal evergreen sub-tropical forest, the flatter parts of the valley support a more typical lowland rain forest with a multi-layered canopy, large boled trees up to 70m high, a high incidence of epiphytic ferns and orchids, an abundance of lianes and a high frequency of cauliflory. Such luxuriance is due to the sheltered aspect, high soil fertility and retention of high humidity in the valley. The forest on the karst crests is more specialised, less tall, less luxuriant and more similar to the forests on neighbouring limestone hills. The highest emergent layer attains 40-50m and is characterised by the dipterocarp Parashorea stellata, which may grow to as high as 70m. The second and main layer comprises both semi-evergreen and also a few deciduous species, depending on the degree of shelter enjoyed. Deciduous Terminalia myriocarpa and Pometia pinnata reach 25-30m. A dense canopy is formed by the sclerophyllous evergreen member of the families Fagaceae, mostly Castanopsis and Lithocarpus, Lauraceae such as Cinnamomum, Lindera and Caryodaphnophis, Anacardiaceae such as Drocontomelum, Meliaceae such as Aphanamixis, Aglaia and Chisocheton, Moraceae including Artocarpus and many Ficus and Tiliaceae such as Kydia calicina. The third layer at about 15m is made up mostly of Caesalpinaceae trees. The fourth layer consists of smaller bushes and shrubs mixed with saplings of the taller canopies. This layer is dominated by Sterculiaceae and wild bananas (Musaceae). The fifth layer or undergrowth is made up of herbs, comprising members of Rubiaceae, Araceae, Commeliaceae, Urticaceae and numerous ferns, reaching 2m in height. This whole complex structure is integrated with numerous epiphytic ferns such as Asplenium nidas and Drynaria coronatus, figs Ficus, semi-epiphytic climbers, epiphytic orchids and climbing rattan palms, as well as numerous mosses and liverworts. Cauliferous species Ficus and Artocarpus, numerous buttressing species and others showing permanent flowering and fruiting characteristics are typical. The park also contains numerous species which have practical uses such as spices, edible fruits, nuts, shoots, spices and medicines (MacKinnon, n.d.). The only gymnosperm found at higher altitudes is Podocarpus wallichianus (F. Ramade, pers. comm., 1984). More than 2,000 vascular plants grow in the park (J. MacKinnon, pers. comm., 1987) and several endangered and endemic species are found (Trung, 1985).
Cuc Phuong lies in West Tonkin, one of the richest faunal regions of Viet Nam, being well-endowed both in term of species diversity and endemism or regional distinctiveness. The park may support as many as 300 species of birds, 65 species of mammals, 37 species of reptiles and 16 species of amphibians. Primates include macaques Macaca mulatta and M. arctoides, gibbon Hylobates concolor (V), Francois' leaf monkey Presbytis francoisi and Pygathrix nemoreus. The nocturnal slow loris Nycticebus coucang also occurs. All primates are now very rare from over-hunting. Carnivores include Asiatic black bear Selenarctos thibetanus and wild dog Cuon alpinus (V), although both are probably not resident, possibly tiger Panthera tigris (E) although there are probably insufficient numbers of prey species to maintain a resident population, leopard P. pardus (V), clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa and jungle cat F. bengalensis. Wild boar Sus scrofa occur throughout the park. A large range of smaller mammals is present, including numerous insectivores, bats and rodents and of these the most conspicuous by night are porcupine Hystrix sp. and flying squirrel Petaurista elegans. By day the most conspicuous mammals are small striped squirrel Tamiops, and more rarely black giant squirrel Ratufa bicolor (MacKinnon, n.d.). Also present is an endemic sub-species of belly-banded squirrel Callosciurus erythraeus cucphuongensis, found only in the park, and an endemic sub-species of sub-terranic cave fish (J. MacKinnon, pers. comm., 1987). Results from surveys in April and July 1988 indicated that bar-backed partridge Arborophila brunneopectus, scaly-breasted partridge A. chloropus tonkinensis, silver pheasant Lophura nycthemera beaulieu, red jungle fowl Gallus gallus and grey peacock-pheasant Polyplectron bicalcaratum (subspecies probably ghigii) were all fairly common (Eames et al., 1988). Other common species include laughing thrushes Garrulax spp., red-vented barbet Magalaima lagrandieri and green-eared barbet M. faiostricta, scimitar-billed babblers Pomatoninus spp. and brown hawk owl Ninox scutulata. Large flocks of scarlet minivet Pericrocotus flammeus occur and lesser racket-tailed drongos Dicrurus remifer, racket-tailed magpie Temnurus temnurus and magpies Cissa spp. and white-winged blue magpie Urocissa whiteheadi are characteristic. Bar-bellied pitta Pitta ellioti has been observed (Rozendaal, 1988). Northern migrants such as thrushes, flycatchers, tits, finches, pipits and many others are present during winter (MacKinnon, n.d.).
Palaeolithic and neolithic artifacts have been found in some of the caves. Parts of the park are inhabited by the ethnic minority Muong people who are considered amongst the earliest inhabitants of the area (Pfeiffer, 1984).
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION
Some 2,500 Muong hill people, living in small family groups, until recently occupied several areas at the edge of the reserve. Whilst much of the park is not accessible for their slash-and-burn agriculture, extensive areas have been cleared for production of hill rice (Pfeiffer, 1984), and large areas in the central valley have been levelled and irrigated for productive rice fields. The Muong also hunt wildlife in the park using both modern firearms and traditional cross bows for food as well elimination of predators. Other activities include rearing chickens, pigs and cattle and producing saleable timber from the larger trees (Kemf, 1986; MacKinnon, n.d.; Pfeiffer, 1984).
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES
The park attracts some 7,000 visitors each year, of whom one-third are foreigners, mostly scientists. An unmetalled road, and narrow trails, provide access to various parts of the park and a 600-rung ladder provides access to the popular Hang Dang Cave. Accommodation includes a guest house which can house about twelve people (Pfeiffer, 1984) and a number of small bungalows (F. Ramade, pers. comm., 1984).
- CULTURAL HERITAGE
Research activities include studies of flora, fauna, geology, hydrology and climate, and reafforestation trials have been undertaken. Research facilities include a zoological museum and deer-breeding station (Pfeiffer, 1984; Trung, 1985), and a permanent field laboratory was constructed in 1984. A general description of the ecology of the park is given in Labeyrie (1974). The research station, museum and arboretum were inaugurated in 1969 by President Ho Chi Minh as one of his last official duties (Labeyrie, 1974).
- SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES
Lying at the southern and altitudinally lowest extremity of the hill chain, the park enjoys the added richness of many sub-tropical and tropical lowland species. One of the most interesting features of the park is the luxurious flora, which to some extent can be interpreted as a tropical refugia with several Malaysian affinities, isolated in the central valley of the reserve. This represents a relict of a period when the tropical forest of Indochina must have extended much further north than today. Interchange with forested areas to the north-west further enhances the value of the park as there is a generally free interchange of flora and fauna, particularly important in view of the park's relatively small size (MacKinnon, n.d.). The park is under the responsibility of the Department of Forest Management and Protection of the Ministry of Forestry and hunting and logging are prohibited, although both still occur. Management activities have in the past focused more on the maintenance of the headquarters facilities, rather than protecting the park. Of the twenty-nine staff assigned to guard duties, ten are based at the headquarters, six on the northern boundary, five on the southern boundary and three at the research station in the centre of the park. Of these guards only one in three has police status and is armed. There appears to be overmanning of the service and maintenance sectors and understaffing for protection duties (MacKinnon, n.d.). Proposals to resettle the Muong outside the park, or to encourage them to practice stable agriculture within a limited area have been made (Pfeiffer, 1984) and are now being implemented as part of an FAO project of assistance to the park. In 1987, 500 people were relocated outside the park. Economic constraints prevent the resettling of the remaining 2,000 people. However, the government hopes to move them as soon as suitable land can be found and housing established. The relocation of these people is the most serious management issue facing the park. A draft preliminary management plan was compiled some years ago (MacKinnon, n.d.) but was not fully implemented. There still remains a need for a comprehensive management plan, including the development of existing facilities (Eames, et al., 1988).
- CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT
The valley has been occupied by limited numbers of Muong hill people for several centuries, but the construction of a road 15km up the valley to the research station has allowed many more people to settle in the area. Extensive areas of the park were converted into terraced ricefields and open field gardens and fuelwood collecting and timber felling has also affected otherwise unopened slopes. Areas of secondary vegetation have developed and South American bamboo Bixa orellana now covers part of the park (MacKinnon, n.d.). The shifting agriculture practised by the Muong constitutes the greatest threat to the park whilst widely practised illegal hunting has lead to several local extinctions. Resettlement of these people is now underway, and shifting cultivation has now been abandoned, although some return to tend existing fields (Eames et al., 1988). Demand from neighbouring agricultural communities for firewood is high and apparently uncontrolled and has resulted in forest clearance around the periphery of the park (MacKinnon, n.d.).
The park is managed by the Ministry of Forestry which has a resident Park Director at the headquarters. A staff of nearly 150 individuals includes approximately ten in administration, 34 research forestry engineers, 40 maintenance labourers, 27 service staff, tending the headquarters gardens, arboretum and deer compound, but only 29 specifically involved in guarding the reserve (MacKinnon, n.d.).
Approximately US$50,000 per annum (F. Ramade, pers. comm., 1984)
- MANAGEMENT PROBLEMS
May 1987; reviewed September 1989
- Vietnam forest project: pheasant surveys 1988. Unpublished report. 69 pp.
- Eames, J.C., Robson, C.R., Wolstencroft, J.A., Cu, N. and La, T.V. (1988).
- The re-greening of Vietnam. WWF Monthly Report 1986: 85-89
- Kemf, E. (1986).
- Le Parc National de Cuc Phuong. Bulletin d'Ecologie, 5 (1): 83-85.
- Labeyrie, V. (1974).
- Preliminary management plans for Cuc Phuong National Park, Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Unpublished. 33 pp.
- MacKinnon, J. (n.d.).
- The conservation of nature in Viet Nam. Environmental Conservation 11: 217-221.
- Pfeiffer, E.W. (1984).
- A field-study of Indochinese pittas in Viet Nam, with special reference to Elliot's pitta Pitta elliotii (Aves: Pittidae). Report on fieldwork in Viet Nam and recommendations for further study in Indochina. Unpublished report. 7 pp.
- Rozendal, F. (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. Pp 251.
- Thai van Trung (1985).