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.

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