Vietnam’s Wildlife Sanctuaries: What are they and why are they needed?

The following questions about wildlife sanctuaries, specifically those found in Vietnam will be answered:

  1. What are wildlife sanctuaries in Vietnam?
  2. How do they work?
  3. Why are they important?

To begin with, it will be helpful to understand what the term ‘wildlife sanctuary’ means:

  • According to international animal organization, Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), a wildlife sanctuary – also called wildlife refuge – is a naturally existing habitat or home for injured or maltreated captive wildlife that allows them to live in peace and with dignity by protecting them from predation, hunting, trading, and forced performances.

Currently, Vietnam has the following wildlife sanctuaries, just to name a few:

  • Cat Tien Bear Sanctuary is the largest semi-natural wildlife sanctuary in the country located at the Cat Tien National Park, Ho Chi Minh City. It was established in 2017 and houses 16 moon bears and 8 sun bears.
  • Vietnam’s oldest and first national park, the Cuc Phuong National Park, houses two sanctuaries: (1) Endangered Primate Rescue Centre, and (2) Turtle Conservation Centre.
  • Another sanctuary for bears is found near Cuc Phuong National Park, it is known as Bear Sanctuary Ninh Binh, founded by Four Paws, an international animal organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria. It houses more than 40 Asiatic black bears within four large enclosures, each expanding at 5,000 square meters.
  • In Thot Not District, Can Tho City, Mekong Delta, a sanctuary for storks can be found and is known as Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary. Established in 1983, it is now Mekong Delta’s largest bird sanctuary and it houses roughly 300,000 storks comprising 20 various species found in the Western Vietnam.

These wildlife sanctuaries are enclosed wide areas specifically designed for the animals they are taking care of. These facilities not only offer the animals’ food and safe shelter, but they also provide peace and freedom from various forms of animal exploitation such as selling or public display of their cute offspring to generate money. This peace and freedom encourage natural behavior among these animals. The protection from hunting and predation preserves endangered animal species.

Vietnam is well-known as one of the world’s biological diversity hotspots. It has 30 national parks and in the past 30 years, there were hundreds of newly discovered flora and fauna. However, the Asian country is also facing a big challenge in fighting wildlife trafficking and habitat destruction. Hence, establishing sanctuaries are important, especially in Vietnam, in order to preserve the nation’s biodiversity. Instead of transferring endangered species to a new habitat, it would be more convenient for the wildlife if they can stay where they are and just protect them from human exploitation and animal predation so they can flourish and behave naturally.

While zoos are built to publicly exhibit animals by buying, borrowing, breeding, and collecting wild animals, sanctuaries keep, take care, and protect abused, abandoned and endangered wild animals.  Wildlife sanctuaries replicate the natural habitat of their chosen animal, and hence they are usually expansive with sanitary conditions and offers physical and psychological stimulation such as ponds, trees. These facilities should also provide animals’ physiological needs such as appropriate feed and veterinary care. Sanctuaries must be accredited and recognized by the government and international animal welfare groups. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Wildlife sanctuaries differ from zoos in terms of their purpose and means of taking care animals. Sanctuaries rescue, nurture, and protect neglected, abused, or endangered animals and keep them in natural habitats. While zoos buy or borrow animals for public exhibition and keep them in cages.
  • Vietnam is a biodiversity hotspot, with 30 national parks. Its wildlife sanctuaries serve to protect and maintain this animal species diversity.
  • Vietnam has bear sanctuaries in Ninh Binh and Cat Tien National Park. In its oldest national park, Cuc Phuong, sanctuaries for primates and turtles can be found. Mekong Delta’s Can Tho City also boasts of its Bang Lang Stork Sanctuary.

Vietnam Wildlife Trade

What is Illegal Wildlife Trade?

Illegal wildlife trade is the acquisition, trade, and/or distribution of wildlife against local or international laws.

This includes: 

  • Live or dead wildlife 
  • Animal parts 
  • Products containing animals parts

Wildlife trafficking is another term for illegal wildlife trade and typically refers to the capture and selling of live wildlife.

Wildlife Trade in Vietnam

Vietnam has a combination of factors that make poaching attractive to wildlife traders:

Rare Species 

Vietnam’s natural ecosystems provide habitat for some of the world’s rare and admired species such as tigers and pangolins. 

Demand for Products

Cultural beliefs around the medicinal powers of ingredients that can only be derived from certain species drives up the price of wildlife. 

Poor Law Enforcement

A lack of resources and education in Vietnam has resulted in an underenforcement of laws related to wildlife trade.  


The generally low income level of rural communities makes the opportunity to make a large amount of money illegal more enticing for some poachers.   

Types of Wildlife Trade in Vietnam 

The most known types of illegal trade are for large animals such as tigers and rhinos. However, illegal wildlife trade also includes various types of reptiles, sea creatures, and birds.

Wildlife Trade Volume & Statistics

Illegal wildlife trade activities range from single items sold at a local level, all the way up to large commercial cargos exported worldwide. 

3,050 Tonnes (Over 6 million pounds; Over 2.7 milling kilograms) per year – the estimated amount of wildlife meat imported and exported into Vietnam each year.

The domestic consumption is estimated to be twice as much.

$66.5M USD – The estimated annual revenue from Vietnam wildlife trade in 2003.

The main source of wildlife poaching is in protected areas (2003 Wildlife Trade Report).

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