With support from the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund, Ashleigh Howell is currently in Vietnam on a conservation adventure working with our partner Fauna & Flora International. 

Ash with the Management Board of Pu Mat National Park and FFI staff

Ash with the Management Board of Pu Mat National Park and FFI staff

Xin chào from Vietnam!

It’s been a busy and exciting week. The new communications intern, Quynh started on Monday so I have been busy working on completing the social media strategy and helping her with some content ideas for the FFI Facebook page and Instagram account.

On Wednesday morning, we left Hanoi and set off to Nghệ An province where Pu Mat National Park is located. Along the way we stopped off in Hà Nam to visit some of the team members who patrol an area in Kim Bang, which is another FFI project site set up to help conserve the Delacour’s Langur.

After a 7-and-a-half-hour journey, we arrived in the main town of Nghệ An just after 9pm. The following morning, we were up early to meet with the Management Board at Pu Mat National Park to discuss project activities, ideas and plans for 2018. It was really interesting being part of this meeting as I was able to hear firsthand the struggles and solutions to some of the issues happening within the park. 

Pu Mat National Park staff point to one of the Ranger Stations within the park

Pu Mat National Park staff point to one of the Ranger Stations within the park

Poaching, hunting and illegal logging are a few of the ongoing issues happening within Pu Mat. FFI are trying to set up two ‘no kill’ zones within the park that will hopefully be free from poachers, snare traps and logging. One of the goals for 2018 will be to remove every snare trap found within these two areas and then maintaining this with the assistance from Community Conservation Teams (CCT) and the Rangers.

Through the Wellington Zoo Conservation Fund, the Zoo helps to support the training of SMART for the CCTs and Rangers within Pu Mat National Park. FFI have trained 14 CCTs to use the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) which allows the teams to import data such as illegal activities, forest fires, any species they’ve spotted, traps and distance they’ve patrolled in a day etc. It’s a very effective tool and helps FFI with forest management and conservation within their many project sites. If the teams are successful in setting up these two ‘no kill’ zones within Pu Mat, they will be using SMART as an ongoing tool to monitor these activities. If all goes well, FFI hopes to establish additional ‘no kill’ zones within the park in the future.

On Thursday afternoon, we headed into the national park and stayed the night at one of the Ranger Stations. We woke up at 4am and headed into the bush in the hopes of hearing the morning song of wild White-Cheeked Gibbons. It was incredibly dark and disorienting heading through the bush that early! We arrived at the end of the track around 5.30am, just as the sun was starting to rise.

Ash with FFI, Pu Mat CTT members and Ranger

Ash with FFI, Pu Mat CTT members and Ranger

We were about to give up all hope and then a little after 6am we heard it in the distance… a male White-Cheeked Gibbon had just begun his morning call with his family. I will never forget this moment – it was so exciting and incredible to hear a wild family group of Gibbons sing together in their natural habitat. While it is very rare to ever see a wild Gibbon, they were fairly close to where we were standing – just a valley over from us.

The Pu Mat Ranger and CCT members we were with said that there are around 3 family groups close to the Ranger station, with more groups spread out across the whole national park.

I was in complete awe listening to the song and couldn’t help but think of our resident Gibbon duo at the Zoo, Robyn and Vilson and think how lucky we are to hear their duet in Newtown every morning. These primates are in serious risk of extinction but it’s so great to see the work that FFI are doing within Pu Mat National Park to conserve their species.

Looking into a valley within Pu Mat National Park

Looking into a valley within Pu Mat National Park

This coming week I will be busy finalising the social media strategy,  helping Quynh develop some content for FFI and we'll be heading back to Kim Bang and Van Long on Friday to visit another one of FFI's project sites. 

Stay tuned for my final blog next week!

 

Some Fast Facts About Pu Mat National Park:

  • The size of Pu Mat National Park is 94,715 ha
  • Pu Mat National Park is one of three key important sites within Vietnam due to its rich biodiversity
  • The national park shares a 61km boarder with Laos
  • There are 110 staff working in the national park
  • Home to the Northern White-Cheeked Gibbon, Sao La, Annamite Striped Rabbit, Owston’s Civet, Red-Shanked Douc Langur, a small heard of Elephants, Pangolins, Loris’ and many more!
  • It is estimated that Pu Mat is home to about 130 groups of Northern White-Cheeked Gibbons, this is thought to be the largest population in Vietnam

Read Ash’s first blog here.