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VietNamNews

Where nature still reigns triumphant

Update: June, 05/2012 - 18:51

 

In the thick of things: A hut used by the forest management team at Tram Chim National Park, which has become Viet Nam's fourth Ramsar site. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
Rare wonders­: Endangered red-headed Sarus cranes typcially spend four months of the year at Tram Chim National Park.
Manna from heaven: "Heaven's rice" – a popular rice strain in Viet Nam grows widely in the national park. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
Birds of a feather: The national park is one of eight important bird-preservation areas in Viet Nam. — VNS Photo Hoang Nam
Evergreen dream: A cajeput forest in Tram Chim National Park. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
Verdant vista: Lua troi (floating rice), lotuses, water lilies and purple spikerushes can be found in the park. — VNS Photo Doan Tung
 
Tram Chim National Park, which is recognised as a wetland area of global importance, is home to 230 bird species – including the magnificent Sarus crane and 30 others listed as endangered. Hoang Nam-Trong Trung report.

The Dong Thap People's Committee has praised the World Wide Fund for Nature's (WWF) contribution to the conservation of Tram Chim National Park, which has become Viet Nam's fourth Ramsar site and the 2,000th site to be designated globally.

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Convention on Wetlands, called the Ramsar Convention.

"WWF is honoured to receive this award," said Kevin Marks, project manager with WWF Viet Nam. "We hope the global attention on Tram Chim's designation as the 2,000th Ramsar site will serve to highlight the importance of this site and reinforce protection efforts."

Tram Chim National Park, located in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Dong Thap, is one of the last remnants of the original wetlands landscape of the Plain of Reeds, a vast wetland area of about 13,000sq km in the provinces of Dong Thap, Tien Giang and Long An in Viet Nam, and part of Svay Rieng in Cambodia.

The Tram Chim National Park is considered a much smaller model of the wild Plain of Reeds with its original wetlands landscape.

The park is home to more than 230 bird species and 130 fish species, 190 fauna, 3,000 ha of cajeput and 1,000 ha of lua troi (natural floating rice), lotus, water lily, grass and purple spikerush.

Its most striking visitor, the Sarus crane, which is listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, visits annually from the end of January to mid-May.

Along with the Sarus crane, the national park has 31 different bird species listed as endangered. The national park is one of eight important bird-preservation areas in Viet Nam.

After one hour travelling by boat on a big canal in the cajeput forest, visitors can feel as if they are back in olden times when nature reigned supreme, indom-itable, as yet unchallenged, and man cowered in the corners of her domain.

The Sarus crane often arrives in Tram Chim from January to May. This year, about 50 Sarus cranes returned to the national park, which was only half the number that visited in 1988.

"The Sarus crane stays in Viet Nam only four months, and then goes to Cambodia and Laos. Therefore, efforts to protected the endangered bird should expand, not just be in Viet Nam," Hung told Viet Nam News.

Along with the Sarus crane, natural rice is considered a speciality of the Plain of Reeds. Lua troi was given as tribute to Lord Nguyen Anh in the middle of the 19th century.

Another name of the rice is lua ma, which means that it can be seen and sometimes not seen because it blends well with different trees. Farmers always harvest this rice at midnight to early morning.

On April when the rain starts, the lua ma begins to grow with the rising water level.

When the rice is cooked, it is fragrant and its colour is light pink and and it is sweet, fatty and soft. The rice is often cooked with lotus leaves to have a special smell.

Lua troi is considered a precious breed that can adapt to alum lands like the U Minh area in Ca Mau and Kien Giang provinces, Plain of Reeds in Dong Thap, Long An and Tien Giang provinces and Long Xuyen quadrangle in An Giang, Can Tho and Kien Giang provinces.

The genes of the lua troi have been sent to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the development of new breeds.

Under earlier management efforts, water was permanently stocked in the park in order to suppress fire.

However, the wildlife in Tram Chim has adapted to the six-month dry season and a six-month flood season. Therefore the year-round water stock was interrupting the natural rhythm.

As a result, habitats have dwindled and species have disappeared.

Importantly, the number of purple spikerush (Eleocharis atropurpurea), the main food of the Sarus crane, has fallen significantly.

Since 2008, WWF has been working with park authorities to restore the habitats of Tram Chim and to mimic its natural and historical conditions.

The work is part of a global partnership between WWF and the Coca-Cola Company in which the two organisations work collaboratively to conserve seven freshwater river basins around the world, including the Mekong.

Tram Chim National Park was the first wetlands-protected area in Viet Nam to adopt an ecosystem-based management approach.

It involves rehabilitating ecosystem processes and providing legal access for communities to wetland resources.

This was a major deviation from standard practice at the time and has yielded strong results, including the recovery of many of the bird species at the park, such as the Sarus crane.

"The innovative management approach in Tram Chim has delivered positive results and we encourage other important conservation sites throughout the country to learn from and replicate these efforts," added Marks.

In addition to stocking water permanently, the previous management regime excluded locals from the park.

This gave locals little option to legally access the wetland resources on which they depend for their livelihood, particularly fish.

Under the new management approach, local people have been provided with legal and sustainable access to wetland resources.

This encourages locals to help manage the resource sustainably and become partners in conservation.

"We hope our success will inspire other wetland sites in Viet Nam to pursue Ramsar designation in the near future," said Nguyen Van Hung, director of Tram Chim National Park.

In 2011, WWF and the Biodiversity Conservation Agency (BCA) – the goverment agency under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment – signed a Memorandum of Understanding supporting five wetland sites in the Mekong Delta to become Ramsar sites in the future. — VNS

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