Vu Quang Nature Reserve

Vu Quang became world-famous overnight when the first new mammal species in the world in 50 years—the Vu Quang ox—was reported in 1992 on this remote wooded reserve in high moist Ammanite Mountains on the Laotian border. The next year, not far away, a new deer species now named the giant muntjac was seen. Since then evidence has been found of at least two new fish species, a new rabbit, squirrel, and warbler, possibly another new kind of deer, and Vietnamese warty pigs, last recorded in 1892 and long considered extinct. 

The new little ox—known also as saola—and as nyang in the huge adjoining Nakai Nam Theun reserve in Laos, where it has now been seen as well—was initially thought related to Arabian oryx, which it resembles with large eyes, straight sharp horns and patterned spotted head, but it differs genetically. The muntjac has been confirmed as a new, much larger species of barking deer.

Other residents of this biological treasure-house include tigers, leopards, gaur, Asiatic black bears, and rare white-cheeked gibbons. Beautiful Vietnamese pheasants, long thought extinct, were found on nearby Ke Go Reserve.

Such astounding species and others perhaps still undiscovered may be protected by enlargement of the reserve—now 234 square miles (607 km2)—with a ban on logging and hunting. A large international reserve has been proposed covering an additional 1,172 square miles (3,036 km2). But such areas are difficult to protect, not only from outside poachers but indigenous people who indiscriminately snare animals for food and have difficulty understanding why they should not.

For now, visitation in this remote, steeply mountainous area is rare-to-nonexistent except for determined scientists with special permission.


Other splendid reserves here include:

Cuc Phuong National Park in north-central Vietnam, a primeval tropical forest preserve, with 1,000-year-old trees, unique species—flying lizards, rare Delacour’s langur, marbled cats—fine birdlife including such specialties as white-bellied pigeons, ruddy kingfishers, Malayan nightherons, and spot-bellied eagle owls, with an endangered primate center.

Ba Be National Park in northeast Vietnam with towering peaks, waterfalls, rain forest, bears, primates, exceptional birdlife.

Bach Ma-Hai Van National Park along central Truong Son Mountains, haven for threatened pheasants—especially crested argus—and Siamese firebacks, plus tigers, Asian elephants, Franco’s leaf monkeys, rare concolor gibbons, and douc langurs.

Cat Ba National Park, largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, with wild boars, endangered golden-headed langurs, rare plants, spot-billed ducks, white-breasted waterhens, pheasant-tailed jacanas, also Indian cuckoos, orange-breasted pigeons, glorious scarlet minivets, many hornbills.

Tam Dong Crane Reserve in the Mekong Delta has a breeding colony of rare sarus cranes, set up by leading Vietnam conservationist Professor Vo Quy with the International Crane Foundation.

Yok Don National Park, 225 square miles (582 km2) in wild central highlands, with tigers, hornbills, reintroduced Asian elephants (also poaching problems).


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Cuc Phuong National Park

Ba Be National Park

Bach Ma-Hai Van National Park

Cat Ba National Park

Tam Dong Crane Reserve

Yok Don National Park