Considered as one of the major biodiversity hotspots in the world, Vietnam can be painted as a land of exotic flora and fauna. A tropical climate and massive rainforests in the South East corner of Asia has provided the most favourable conditions for wildlife in Vietnam to flourish. More than 26000 species of living organisms have been discovered to date, and this number continues to grow.
Vietnam’s biodiversity of flora and fauna includes aerial, land and aquatic species of plants, insects, birds and animals. But unfortunately, 10% of this numeral has been threatened with extinction as reported by the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). The leading causes have been identified as large scale urbanisation and deforestation. Also, the many conflicts Vietnam has had with other nations over the years has adversely impacted its wildlife. At this critical point, the Vietnamese Government along with the support of global organisations like UNESCO has come up with more than 30 National parks, protected areas and UNESCO biodiversity reserves for the preservation of the wildlife in Vietnam.
National Parks in Vietnam
1. Bach Ma National Park
The Bach Ma National Park is located on the Annamite Mountains, which offers an exceptional view of the rich biodiversity of Vietnam. This area of Vietnam receives the highest rainfall, which keeps it wet and cool annually, making it favourable for the life to flourish. If you are here to see the variation of the Vietnamese biodiversity, then Bach Ma National Park will never disappoint you. Among these tropical woods, you can easily spot wild animals like the Asian Elephant, Red-shanked Douc (Langur) and many insects as well. Some of this national park's feathered residents include the Edward's Pheasant, Brown Hornbill, Laughingthrush, Crested Argus, varieties of Kingfisher and lots of other birds. Also, thousands of colourful orchids adorn the nature trail of Bach Ma National park making its exploration highly aesthetic.
Accommodations for visitors are present inside the national park. There are few old rickety French villas that have been converted into beautiful rustic guest houses that let you live a day or two in the serene heaven. The fantastic view of the Hai Van Pass is a must see while exploring Bach Ma National Park. The best time to hit this park is in summers and early monsoon when the beauty is at its best.
2. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
More than 300 caves of limestone are present in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park which resides beside the calming waters of the Chay river. Located in the North-central region of Vietnam with a territory of 2000 km sq., tourists are allowed to explore these caves. The largest cave on earth, the Son Doong Cave is one of the main highlights of this national park. UNESCO officially recognises Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park as a World Heritage site. While exploring the caves and secret waters of Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, one will come across various cave-dwelling insects and mammals. In the evergreen bamboo forests, reside the Saola, Water Monitors, Black bears and langurs.
Various adventure activities such as kayaking in the rivers, jungle trekking and cave explorations are available for tourists. Many natural waterfalls with their own pools can be found across the park where quick dips can be taken. A visit to Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park must be planned in the time of September to May as it gets too hot in the Summer.
Wildlife in VietnamAmong Vietnam's famously recognised fauna are Gray and Red-shanked douc which are endangered langurs. One can also find large mammals such as the Asiatic elephants, Sun bear or honey bear, Indo Chinese tigers and leopards and wild boars. Bats, flying squirrels, Otters and Pygmy slow loris are some of the smaller inhabitants found. In the feathered department, notable species include the Great Hornbill, White-winged wood duck, White-shouldered Ibis, Edward's pheasant, Yellow-billed nuthatch and many more. Most of these species are considered to be endangered. Species of rhinoceros such as the Vietnamese Javan rhino and Northern Sumatran rhino can now only be seen in pictures.
Some of the endemic and fascinating creatures of Vietnam are the following -
1. Water Buffalo - A Goodluck Charm for the Vietnamese
This grey colored animal has bagged the rank of National animal of Vietnam because of its more than 5000 years old friendship with humans and support in building the nation’s economy. 7 feet tall and weighing more than 1000 kilograms this quacking beast is considered lucky and prosperity bringing animal. They spend most of their time daydreaming in waters and grazing over the green field vegetation and water plants. Water buffaloes are also prominent in sports and they participate in the nerve-chilling, adrenaline boosting ‘Buffalo fight festival’ held once yearly in the city of Haiphong. But the greed and witty intelligence of humans have put this name on the list of endangered species.
2. Honey Bears - The Sweet Toothed Residents
Honey Bears, as their names suggest, love to eat honey. They are covered in jet black coloured fur, have a golden-orange coloured face and a white-creamy patch on the front of their neck and chest. They are also known as Sun bears because of the colour of their skin, which is reddish brown. Rapid destruction of their natural habitat and strong competition from other wild animals like tigers are the leading causes of these furry creatures becoming endangered.
3. Flying Squirrels - Tiny Winged Tree Dwellers
At first sight, they might look like bats gliding from perch to perch and hiding in the holes carved in wooden trunks of trees. But the flying squirrels are the cousins of the regular squirrels, who developed wings and can fly short distances. They dwell in groups just like their non-winged brethren. The fascinating thing about their flight is they can glide up to 300 feet and even quickly change directions mid-flight.
4. Vietnamese Mossy Frog
Dwelling in Northern Vietnam, the Mossy Vietnamese Frog has a very peculiar look. It can camouflage itself superbly with its surroundings. The green coloured rock-textured skin with black spots make it unpleasant to look at, but this only protects this it from predators.
5. Asian Water Monitor - The Finest Swimmers
The endemic lizards of South Vietnam are in good demand for their hide and skin to make accessories. They are usually found in the waters, on the land in forest and sometimes even on the busy roads of Vietnam in search of food. These giant lizards grow upto 2 meter in length weighing almost 50 kilograms. They are the World class swimmers and are very intelligent yet friendly lizards. But if you tease them, they will fight back with their strong claws and bite you with their sharp teeth. So be careful.
6. Horned Sea Star - Beautiful cum Beastly
Found in the waters of Phu Quoc National Park, Vietnam, the horned sea star looks like any regular starfish. But these creatures are not to be trifled with as their protruding black horns can scare off any enemies. They are highly harvested for their skeleton business, which poses a threat to their existence soon. Because of their colour combination of red or brown shades with black horns stuck on it like chocolate chips on a cookie, these horn stars are also known as Chocolate chip sea star.
7. Edward’s Pheasant
Mostly found in the wetlands of Central Vietnam, this red legged bird sacrificed many of its community members in the war of Vietnam and has been listed under the endangered species. The males are more beautiful than females with vibrant black and blues shades as compared to the dull brown females offering a good sight for the lady visitors in Vietnam. Efforts are being made by UNESCO and Vietnamese Government to conserve and protect this species from completely getting extinct.
8. Hornbill - A Majestic Treat to Your Eyes
The great hornbills are easy to spot in Vietnam because of their characteristic features. Living a prideful life of 50 years, this bird is adored for its long bright yellow casque on its bill. They have stunning eyes with females having bluish-white coloured eyes whereas male hornbills have a pair of red eyes and on the top of it they luscious thick eyelashes. It’s a treat to watch this black and yellow beauty among the greens of Vietnamese forests.
Wildlife in Vietnam is truly so diverse and enchanting that it is a paradise for nature enthusiasts, wildlife researchers and photographers. So, explore the wild side of Vietnam and discover the true potential of Mother Earth.