VN039 Vietnam Bird Watching Phong Nha

VN039 Vietnam Bird Watching Phong Nha Criteria: A1, A2 & A3

vn039-300x300Province(s):          Quang Binh
PA Status:            National Park

Latitude:               17º29’N
Longitude:            106º16’E
Area:                     41,132 ha
Altitude Range:    150-400 m asl

EBA / SA: Annamese Lowlands EBA
Priority Landscape: NA 6 – Central Indochina Limestone

General Description

The IBA comprises the Phong Nha sector of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which, prior to 2001, was designated as Phong Nha Nature Reserve. The IBA is situated within the largest area of contiguous limestone forest in Indochina, which also includes Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos, and the Ke Bang limestone area in Vietnam. The IBA has a limestone karst topography, as a result of which human encroachment into the site has been limited. Consequently, the limestone karst is almost entirely forested, apart from steep cliff faces. At the foot of the limestone karst, the natural vegetation is lowland evergreen forest, although some areas have been cleared for cultivation. There are a number of major cave systems at Phong Nha, and the site attracts large numbers of domestic tourists every year. Phong Nha is one of the most important sites in Vietnam for the conservation of globally threatened primate species, including at least one taxon endemic to limestone karst areas in central Indochina: Hatinh Langur Trachypithecus francoisi hatinhensis1. In addition, the IBA supports an all-black langur, the precise taxonomic affinities of which are currently undetermined1. To the north-west, Phong Nha IBA is contiguous with Ke Bang IBA.

Bird Fauna: Key Features

Phong Nha IBA is situated within the Annamese Lowlands Endemic Bird Area (EBA), and supports at least two of the nine restricted-range species that define this EBA. Notably, the IBA is one of only two sites in Vietnam known to support Sooty Babbler Stachyris herbeti, a species that went unrecorded for over 70 years between its discovery in Laos around 1920 and its rediscovery at Phong Nha in 19942. In addition to Sooty Babbler, Phong Nha IBA supports a population of a form of leaf warbler that is endemic to limestone karst areas in central Indochina. This form, which resembles Sulphur-breasted Warbler Phylloscopus ricketti in external appearance but differs in terms of vocalisations, may represent an undescribed species3.

Species IBACriteria Global Threat Status OtherIBAs Notes
Crested ArgusRheinardia ocellata A1, A2 VU 15 One bird was heard in November 1994 and one or two birds were heard in June 19964.
Chestnut-necklaced PartridgeArborophila charltonii A1 NT 7 A pair was heard duetting in November 19944.
Siamese FirebackLophura diardi A1, A3 NT 13 The species was recorded between June and July 19942.
Red-collared WoodpeckerPicus rabieri A1, A3 NT 11 The species was recorded between June and July 19942. A family group of four was seen in June 1996 and two birds were observed in December 19964.
Great HornbillBuceros bicornis A1 NT 13 The species was recorded between June and July 19942.
Brown HornbillAnorrhinus tickelli A1, A3 NT 16 The species was recorded between June and July 19942. Three birds were observed and up to eight were heard in June 19964.
[Short-tailed Scimitar BabblerJabouilleia danjoui] A1, A2 NT 18 Although the species has not yet been recorded at the IBA, it was recorded in the neighbouring Rao Bong watershed between June and July 19942. While it is likely to occur at the IBA, this is currently unconfirmed.
Sooty BabblerStachyris herbeti A1, A2 NT 1 After a gap of over 70 years since the species’s discovery, it was rediscovered at Phong Nha between June and July 19942. During two subsequent visits, four small flocks were seen in November 1995 and several flocks, one of which numbered more than 20 birds, were observed in June 19964.

Notes: [ ] = unconfirmed record.

Biome Restricted Species: The site qualifies under criterion A3 because it supports 14 species restricted to the Indochinese Tropical Moist Forests (Biome 09). See Appendix 4 for details.

Secondary Criteria

Species                                                 Status 

Northern Slow Loris Nyticebus bengalensis5               DD
Hatinh Langur
Pygmy Loris Nyticebus pygmaeus5                              VU
Trachypithecus francoisi hatinhensis5,6                           EN
Northern Pigtail Macaque Macaca leonina5                 VU
Red-shanked Douc Pygathrix nemaeus nemaeus5             EN
Assamese Macaque Macaca assamensis5                   VU
Buff-cheeked Gibbon Nomascus gabriellae5                     VU
Rhesus Macaque Macaca mulatta5                              NT
*[Gaur Bos gaurus]5                                                                                       VU
Stump-tailed Macaque Macaca arctoides5                   VU
Southern Serow Naemorhedus sumatraensis5                   VU

Notes: [ ] = unconfirmed record; * = possibly extinct at the site.

Threats to Biodiversity

Currently, the biggest threat to biodiversity at Phong Nha IBA is hunting, which is widespread at the site and represents a particular threat to populations of primates and large mammals. Levels of hunting are high in response to high demand from the wildlife trade. In addition to hunting, illegal timber extraction is also a major threat to biodiversity, and, again, occurs largely in response to commercial demand1.

Threat Severity
Agricultural intensification / expansion
Hunting ●  ●
Infrastructure development ●  ●
Recreation / tourism
Selective logging / cutting ●  ●

Due to the unsuitability of the limestone karst terrain, the rate of habitat loss to date at Phong Nha has been relatively low5. However, a road, which is currently being constructed through the IBA, may result in increased rates of habitat loss and disturbance to key species, especially globally threatened primates1. The on-going construction of National Highway 2 close to the IBA is also a cause for concern, as this may facilitate human settlement in the surrounding area, thereby increasing human pressure on natural resources.

Another potential threat to biodiversity at the site is tourism development. To date, however, tourism development at the site has been concentrated on the cave systems, and impacts on forest habitats have been limited.

Conservation Actions
  • In 1986, the government of Vietnam decreed the establishment of a cultural and historical site at Phong Nha1.
  • In 1993, Phong Nha Cultural and Historical Site was upgraded to nature reserve status and a management board was established1.
  • In 1998, with funding from the UK Department for International Development, WWF initiated a transboundary conservation project at Phong Nha, entitled Linking Hin Namno and Phong Nha through Parallel Conservation1.
  • In 1998, Fauna and Flora International initiated a conservation project at Phong Nha-Ke Bang, comprising capacity building and field survey components1.
  • In December 2001, the government of Vietnam decreed the establishment of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, comprising Phong Nha Nature Reserve and part of the Ke Bang limestone area.
  • Koln Zoo is currently developing plans to undertake capacity building activities and further biological surveys at the site1.
  • National park management regulations, particularly controls on hunting and timber extraction should be effectively enforced.
  • Strict controls on human settlement along the route of National Highway 2 should be introduced, in order to minimised increased pressures on the natural resources of the IBA following construction of this road.
  • All proposed infrastructure developments at the national park, particularly those involving road construction, should be subjected to careful Environmental Impact Assessment, and appropriate mitigation measures should be implemented.
  • A tourism management board, including representatives of the national park management board, the provincial tourism company and other local stakeholders, should be established as a basis for environmentally sustainable tourism development at the site.