Project to protect Vietnam’s elephants kicks off

Thursday, 2016-12-15 11:29:39
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A Yok Don elephant
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NDO/VNA—The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and Vietnamese nature authorities kicked off an emergency project on December 14 to protect the biggest herd of elephants in the country from extinction.

The project, which is being undertaken by WWF Vietnam and the Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, will focus on the enforcement of environmental law and the mitigation of human and elephant conflicts.

The mitigation work considers the basic elephants’ custom of seasonal movement and seeks to improve livelihoods of local residents in the Central Highlands.

Under the project, training courses for forest rangers on the topic of law enforcement as well as skill for investigating habitat sites will be opened for the ranger divisions in the region. WWF Vietnam will support the preparation of photo traps to monitor the elephants.

Yok Don National Park will be equipped with a system of spatial monitoring and reporting tools called SMART, which have proved its effectiveness following pilot use for monitoring the rare creature saola in the central provinces of Thua Thien–Hue and Quang Nam.

The Central Highlands are home to the biggest herd of elephants in the country, accounting for 70% of the national elephant population. The protection of this region’s elephant herd is significant to the preservation of Asian elephants in Vietnam.

According to the park’s director, Do Quang Tung, the park is a hotspot for encroachment into the forest and its topography allows easy access from the park’s four sides.

A report by WWF Vietnam said the elephant is a species that requires a vast habitat area but its living space and moving corridors have been narrowed due to human encroachment into the forest.

The General Department of Forestry’s figures show that in the 40 years from 1975 to 2015, the population of Asian elephants in Vietnam has decreased by 95%. In Dak Lak, a total of 23 elephants have been killed for souvenir items such as tusks, tail hair and feet, which are sold illegally in the province.

Experts said this was the last chance to protect the elephants before the pachyderm faces a painful extinction in Vietnam much like the Java rhino.