Is Vietnam’s Wildlife at Risk?
Some of Vietnam’s wildlife is considered “at risk” because of declining populations of some species and decrease in natural habitat.
This article will help you understand how and why Vietnam’s wildlife is at risk.
Where is Vietnam?
Vietnam is an East Asian country on the Indochina Peninsula that is one of the world’s most bio- diverse countries with a diverse range of unique and fascinating fauna.
What Wildlife in Vietnam is At Risk?
Here are some of the most known and unique at risk wildlife that live in Vietnam:
Saola, also known as “The Asian Unicorn,” is an ancient animal that is believed to be the rarest large mammal in Vietnam. Around 50 saolas live in Vietnam, making it the country’s most critically endangered species. Hunting, rather than habitat degradation, is the main threat to Saola. Commercial poaching is the main threat to hunting, not subsistence hunting by local people.
The Black Gibbon is critically on the verge of extinction. In Vietnam, there are only about 60 black gibbons left. Due to habitat degradation and illegal poaching, the black gibbon is one of Vietnam’s most endangered primates.
Vietnam was previously the paradise of the famous Sarus Cranes. Due to habitat loss and degradation of food sources, Sarus Crane became an endangered species in Vietnam.
The siamese crocodile, Crocodylus siamensis, is one of Vietnam’s most endangered species. The Cat Tien National Park has roughly 200 representatives of this species. The siamese crocodile can be found in a range of freshwater environments, including rivers, lakes, marshes, and swamplands. The most serious risks to the species are habitat occupancy and human disturbance.
Black-Breasted Leaf Turtle
The black breasted leaf turtle is a turtle that can only be found in Southeast Asia. Because Vietnam is one of the nations where it can be found, it is also known as the “Vietnamese leaf turtle”. Laos and China are also home to this species. The most serious dangers to this species are poaching and capture for the illegal pet trade.
Indian Ox (Gaur)
Gaur is the world’s largest ox, with a powerful and massively built body. Despite their fearful appearance, Indian oxen in Vietnam are in severe decline as a result of deforestation and human misconduct.
There are only about 5 Indochinese tigers left in Vietnam, according to estimates. The number of tigers has decreased due to habitat loss and hunting for the skin, bones, and claws for Chinese medicine.
The large-antlered muntjac is one of Vietnam’s most endangered species. Illegal hunting, primarily with wire snares, has severely threatened the population of large-antlered muntjac.
Rare Javan Rhino
The Javan Rhino was thought to be extinct in Vietnam until 1989, when a hunter was captured trying to sell the skin and horn from one of the mammals. The Javan Rhino that died in Cat Tien National Park in May 2010 may have been Vietnam’s last Javan Rhino.
Another critically endangered species found in Vietnam is the Delacour’s Langur. This species can only be found in Vietnam. The most serious risks to this species are hunting for traditional medicine and loss of natural habitat.
Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey
The tonkin snub nosed monkey is well-known throughout the world for its distinct appearance. Tonkin snub nosed monkeys are a small white and black primate that has been hunted almost to extinction. The primary threats to the tonkin snub-nosed monkey are habitat loss, hunting for food, and sale on the wildlife black market. There are about 200 tonkin snub-nosed monkeys left in the Vietnam.
Cat Ba Langur
The Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus) is found only on the small rocky islands of Cat Be, just off the coast of Vietnam. It has never been very numerous. It is threatened by tourism and island development. There are approximately 64 individuals left in the Vietnam.
Grey-Shanked Douc Langur (Pygathrix cinerea)
The Grey-Shanked Douc Langur was thought to be endemic to Vietnam, only found in Central Vietnam. In Vietnam, population of Grey-Shanked Douc Langur is estimated to be no more than 1500 individuals. The main threats to this species are traditional medicine, hunting, and the pet trade.
Red-Shanked Douc (Pygathrix nemaeus)
Red-shanked douc is found in Central and Southern Laos, North Central Vietnam, and Northeastern Cambodia. The total population is unknown, but Laos is thought to have a larger and more stable population than Vietnam. The main threat is hunting, which is done for subsistence and traditional medicine, but they are also hunted for the international pet trade.
The Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata), which are found in China, Vietnam, and Laos, is a critically endangered but mostly ignored species. Due to high levels of poaching and habitat loss, the species population is said to be falling in the China, Laos, and Vietnam. Over-exploitation of turtles in Vietnam over several decades to supply the international trade has wiped out numerous populations and pushed several species to the brink of extinction. As a result of high demand from emerging markets in China and other countries in the region turtles has been heavily hunted.
Pangolins are one of the most endangered animals on the planet. The small, shy pangolins are the most poached animals in the world today. 100,000 are poached each year for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in Vietnam and China, as well as their scales, which are thought to have healing powers.
The male crested argus (Rheinardia ocellata) has the world’s longest tail feathers. It is only found in the Tuong San area of Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia’s montane region. Throughout its range, this species is severely threatened by hunting. Decrease in the extent and quality of forested habitat within the range, crested argus has likely resulted in a very rapid rate of population decline, which is expected to continue. As a result, the species is listed as Endangered. Crested argus is an elusive and shy bird found only in Vietnam. This pheasant is vulnerable because its population is declining rapidly as a result of regional hunting, reduction in the extent, and quality of its evergreen forest habitat.
More Vietnam Animals At Risk
Aside from this short list, Vietnam is also reported to have 320 rare wild animals that need imperative protection including these and much more:
- hog deer
- freshwater crocodiles
- wild boar
- wild fowl
- monitor lizard
Why is Wildlife in Vietnam at Risk of Extinction?
Biodiversity is threatened in most parts of the world due to rapid population growth and the pressing need for economic growth. Many types of human activities endanger wildlife, from direct habitat destruction to the spread of invasive species and diseases. The majority of ecosystems on earth face multiple threats (not only Vietnam).
Here are the main factors contributing to the extinction of wildlife in Vietnam:
Illegal wildlife Trade
The illegal trade of wildlife is the fourth largest criminal industry in the world after arms, drugs, and human trafficking. Illegal wildlife trade is also a major threat to some of the world’s most iconic animals, such as rhinos and elephants.
Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam is known to be a hotbed for consumption of wild animal products and a hub for trade to other parts of the world.
Poaching is the illegal hunting of animals. It is almost always done to make a profit by selling the meat or animal products that can be highly valued. In Vietnam, primate poaching is widespread and common. Poachers are interested in the monkeys’ bones, organs, and tissues, which are utilized in traditional medicine, among other things.
Over-harvesting or Overhunting
In the case that a limited amount of hunting certain species is allowed, populations may disregard limits or hunting an unsustainable rate may be legal (in the case of mismanagement of resources). The Passenger Pigeon is the poster child of how people overhunted a species (legally). This resulted in its extinction.
Overhunting is responsible for the near-extinction of some high-profile species today, like elephants for their ivory tusks and rhinos for their horn (before it was made illegal – now this is termed poaching).
Habitat loss is one of the most significant causes of species extinction, both in the animal and plant worlds. Habitat destruction most often comes from:
- Resource Harvesting – clearing forest for wood, to replace with agriculture, or extract other resources.
- Development – the clearing of natural ecosystems to develop cities or even rural housing.
- Mismanagement – even lands that are not developed or harvested can become disrupted if too much human activity degrades the natural ecosystem.
Non-native species can grow and reproduce quickly in areas they are introduced because they have no natural competition. When non-native species flourish after introduction, they can disrupt an ecosystem by monopolizing resources and starving native species.
As the world’s population increases, so does the demand for raw materials to sustain modern life. As the demand for natural resources increases, the value of harvestable land goes up. This incentivizes people to extract resources like wood from forests that would otherwise go untouched.
A not-so-obvious source of habitat destruction is global pollution. Ecosystems of the world are interconnected. When one aspect of our natural environment is polluted (eg. the atmosphere) various habitats around the world are also impacted.
A massive assortment of toxins put into the environment from industrial processes is continually pressuring wildlife populations. For example, every year 800 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean, washing up on previously pristine parts of the planet and threatening the survival of more than 600 marine wildlife species. While only a small portion of the plastic pollution that arrives on Vietnam’s shores is from Vietnam, this plastic still has a negative impact on Vietnam’s coastal wildlife.
Climate change is affecting marine biodiversity, shifting vegetation zones, and forcing species to adapt to new conditions, from more frequent and fierce storms to longer and more intense droughts. Rising ocean temperatures and diminishing Arctic sea ice are affecting marine biodiversity, shifting vegetation zones, and forcing species to adapt to new conditions.
Diseases kill both humans and animals. The Ebola virus killed 5,000 critically endangered western gorillas at the Lossi Sanctuary between 2002 and2003, as well as hundreds of gorillas in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park between 2003 and 2004.
Disease is introduced to new habitats more frequently because of the rate and extent of global commerce, travel, and illegal wildlife trade.
Consumption of Wildlife Products
Wildlife product consumption is a major threat to biodiversity. Vietnam has been identified as an important hub and hotspot in Southeast Asia for the consumption of wildlife products, as well as a transit point for Asia’s illegal wildlife trade. Thousands of wildlife animals have been exploited and consumed in Vietnam for traditional medicine or trade.
What Can Be Done To Help At Risk Animals in Vietnam?
- Educate and support the local communities so they understand the repercussions. Note that it’s just as critical to provide alternative sources of income for communities in need.
- Consumers around the world can be more aware of the environmental impact their use of products like plastic have on the local and global environment.
- Don’t participate in any kind of entertainment that involves the exploitation of animals (races and rare animal hunting).
- Don’t buy anything made from wild animals (teeth, fur, horns, and meat).
- Animals should not be sacrificed for traditional medicine preparations.
- We must work to find more sustainable ways of creating housing and providing resources for the world’s growing population.
- Restore natural communities by reintroducing native species.
- Open and properly manage nature reserves, national parks, and other protected areas.
- Le MD, McCormack TEM, Hoang HV, Duong HT, Nguyen TQ, Ziegler T, Nguyen HD, Ngo HT (2020) Threats from wildlife trade: The importance of genetic data in safeguarding the endangered Four-eyed Turtle (Sacalia quadriocellata). Nature Conservation 41: 91-111. https://doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.41.54661.
- Nguyen DH and Dinh TM. (2020). Impacts of wildlife trade and sustainable development in Vietnam. https://doi.org/10.1051/e3sconf/202015703001.