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A Jewel of the Truong Son Mountains
Pu Mat National Park is the flagship park on the northern massif of the Truong Son Mountains along the Laos- Vietnam border. The area contains some of the world’s most unique and threatened species. Here, in these steep forested mountain slopes of the Vu Quang Nature Reserve and the neighboring protected area of Pu Mat National Park, a team of Vietnamese and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) scientists recently discovered a new genus of large mammal, the sao la.
We first experienced the Truong Son Mountains and had a chance to help reveal some of their tightly held secrets as coordinators for biological expeditions under the EU-funded Social Forestry and Nature Conservation Project (SNFC) managed by Fauna and Flora International. We took Highway No.7 to Pu Mat, meandering west from coastal Vinh through pure, rustic beauty towards the Laos border. The park headquarters are near Con Cuong, a small “wild west” town perched on the banks of the huge, slumbering Ca River, itself nestled amongst precipitous karst peaks.
Pu Mat’s true wilderness with spectacular features such as the Kem Waterfall is accessible only to well-organized expeditions. However, the reachable buffer zone shares the park’s beauty.. Park staff can direct visitors traveling on foot or by motorbike to ethnic Thai or Dan Lai villages and even help arrange for stays in their stilt houses in the luscious, the forested river valleys. Here, visitors can experience the park’s extraordinary diversity, through they won’t glimpse the more magnificent wild animals, such as the Asian elephant, tiger, sao la, Asiatic black bear, or yellow cheeked gibbon.
Stopping to rest or swim in the shimmering rivers, we hoped to glimpse rare giant black squirrels jumping through the forest canopy and to hear the crested argus, a beautiful large bird with one of the world’s longest sets of fail feathers. The buffer zone is the perfect place to see local people living together with the forest. Elderly Thai women search for gold, using sticks to balance large wooden waterwheels to irrigate their small fields. Local villagers guided us through labyrinths of karst cave during nighttime bat surveys, They said many caves were over ten kilometers long. Our surveys showed that these caves might hold the highest diversity of bat species in Vietnam.
Habitat destruction and hunting threaten the park’s animals and plants, which deserve the highest global priority for conservation. The Pu Mat National Park staff is working hard to save this jewel for future generations. Our experience of the area’s extraordinary beauty, uniqueness and diversity has since led us to assist a WWF- supported effort to establish an ambitious conservation program for the Truong Son Mountains to help preserve this truly special part of Vietnam.
Source: Mike-Henrik Franklin - Vietnam Cultural Window