A group of Vietnamese friends from the US visited Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park in the southern province of Tay Ninh to experience the virgin forests and eco-landscapes that abound there.
Park deputy director Ly Van Tro guided the group through the area, which was gazetted as a national park by the Government in 2002.
There they witnessed three different forests at the same site – the old forests of the Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), wetland and semi-wetland forests of the eastern region and the mangrove forests of the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta.
Tro told the group that the potential of these forests included fishing and seafood in the mangroves and river system, tourism, entertainment, and scientific research as well as other natural items such as fragrant mushrooms.
The forests accounted for roughly 25 per cent of the province’s total natural forest cover and supported a mosaic of lowland semi-evergreen forests and lowland deciduous forest and melaleucas, Tro said. Smaller areas of lowland evergreen forest existed along watercourses. A variety of wetland habitats, including seasonally inundated grasslands and forests, permanent lakes and watercourses were also present.
Apart from the forests, the site was found to qualify as an Important Bird Area (IBA) due to the presence of a number of globally threatened birds and restricted-range species, including Germain’s peacock-pheasant Polyplectron germaini, Tro said.
“Scientists have defined that the park is one of most rich important bird areas in Viet Nam.”
The visitors under Tro’s guidance were interested in witnessing birds bathing in the park’s puddles, while boucals and drongos try to land on guests’ cars.
“Rabbits and monkeys ran around us as if we were their close friends,” group leader Duong Quoc Minh said.
The park also has relics of a base of the southern liberation forces during the American War, which includes a radio station of the fighters, a news agency station and a printing house and many other facilities.
“We plan to build a museum to show visitors the history of the revolution and national liberation,” Tro said.
“The park management board holds training courses for village officials, security guards, teachers and students to teach them more about the park’s potential and to encourage them to protect the park.
“We plan to build a large stilt house on the Vam Co Dong River which forms a boundary of the park so visitors can stay overnight,” he said.
Surveys had revealed Lo Go-Xa Mat qualified as an IBA, Tro said, while subsequent meetings with stakeholders generated considerable local interest in its value for biodiversity, resulting in the request for its formal protection.
The site was declared a protected area by the government of Viet Nam in 1986 to commemorate its historical importance as a revolutionary base during the American War, Tro said. In January 2001, following reports that the site had been designated for village resettlement, the BirdLife International Viet Nam Programme undertook a survey trip.
The site was found to support a variety of lowland habitat types almost lost from elsewhere in Viet Nam but these were under severe and immediate threat from conversion to agricultural land. Indeed, drainage canals and roads were already under construction, he said.
In response to these threats, BirdLife and the International Crane Foundation convened a meeting with provincial leaders to explain the importance of the site for conservation, and to raise awareness of the threats posed by the resettlement project. The response from the provincial leaders was positive: they agreed to halt the project temporarily, pending a more detailed biodiversity assessment, Tro said.
Consequently, in October 2001, BirdLife led a joint survey of Lo Go-Xa Mat. The designation of the site as an IBA was announced at a provincial workshop, generating much interest among local leaders, who had been unaware of the biodiversity value of the site. Immediately following the workshop, the provincial leaders made an official request that the site be designated a National Park.
Now it is a place for students to learn about afforestation and Tay Ninh authorities have recently adopted a master plan to develop eco-tourism in the national park until 2020.
Vu Ngoc Long, deputy director of the Institute for Tropical Biology, who is in charge of the implementing the plan, said the province aimed to develop different kinds of eco-tourism such as walking or pedalling around the park to enjoy its flora and fauna and to swim, row dug-out canoes and camp, plus visit war bases, historic relics and craft villages and take part in community culture activities.
“All visitors are welcome at the park, to enjoy its natural beauty, join local people in caring for the trees and to learn about our great natural forest restoration project.” — VNS by Ha Nguyen
Wet and wild: A corner of the Lo Go-Xa Mat National Park.
Happy tree friends: The park also hosts endangered monkeys.
Feather dusting: The site is home to many rare species including eastern cranes. — VNS File Photos