PHONG NHA-KE BANG NATIONAL PARK
The karst formations of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park have evolved since the Palaeozoic, over 400 million years ago, and are among the oldest as well as largest tracts of karst in Asia. This vast limestone landscape is extremely complex, with many notable and spectacular geomorphic features, including 104km of caves, including what could be the world’s largest cave and longest underground river. These unique and rare habitats support a vast array of species, many of which are threatened both nationally and globally. There is a high degree of endemism in the property, as well as the broader region, and new species are being identified on a regular basis.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
NATURAL WORLD HERITAGE SITE
2003: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criterion viii.
2010: Re-nominated under Natural Criteria viii and x and referred by the Committee in 2011.
2014: Re-nominated and extended under Natural Criteria viii, ix and x.
STATEMENT OF OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued the following statement at the time of inscription:
Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park is located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range in Quang Binh province, Vietnam, and shares its boundary with the Hin Namno Nature Reserve in the Lao PDR to the west. The property comprises an area of 123,326 ha and contains terrestrial and aquatic habitats, primary and secondary forest, sites of natural regeneration, tropical dense forests and savanna and is rich in large, often spectacular and scientifically significant caves.
The property contains and protects over 104 km of caves and underground rivers making it one of the most outstanding limestone karst ecosystems in the world. The karst formation has evolved since the Palaeozoic period (some 400 million years ago) and as such is the oldest major karst area in Asia. Subject to massive tectonic changes, the karst landscape is extremely complex, comprising a series of rock types that are interbedded in complex ways and with many geomorphic features. The karst landscape is not only complex but also ancient, with high geodiversity and geomorphic features of considerable significance.
The karst formation process has led to the creation of not only underground rivers but also a variety of cave types including: dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves and intersecting caves. With a length of over 44.5 km, the Phong Nha cave is the most famous of the system with tour boats able to penetrate inside to a distance of 1,500 m. The Son Doong Cave, first explored in 2009, is believed to contain the world’s largest cave passage in terms of diameter and continuity.
A large number of faunal and floral species occur within the property with over 800 vertebrate species recorded comprising 154 mammals, 117 reptiles, 58 amphibians, 314 birds and 170 fish. The property clearly has impressive levels of biodiversity within its intact forest cover, notwithstanding some gaps in knowledge of the population status of some species.
Criterion (viii): Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is part of a larger dissected plateau, which encompasses the Phong Nha, Ke Bang and Hin Namno karsts. The limestone is not continuous and demonstrates complex interbedding with shales and sandstones. This has led to a particularly distinctive topography. The caves demonstrate a discrete sequence of events, leaving behind different levels of ancient abandoned passages; evidence of major changes in the routes of underground rivers; changes in the solutional regime; deposition and later re-solution of giant speleothems and unusual features such as sub-aerial stromatolites. On the surface, there is a striking series of natural landscapes, ranging from deeply dissected ranges and plateaux to an immense polje. There is evidence of at least one period of hydrothermal activity in the evolution of this ancient mature karst system. The Son Doong Cave, first explored in 2009, could contain the world’s largest cave passage in terms of diameter and continuity. The plateau is one of the finest and most distinctive examples of a complex karst landform in Southeast Asia and the property is of great importance for enhancing our understanding of the geologic, geomorphic and geo-chronological history of the region.
Criterion (ix): Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park consists of a complex limestone landscape, which includes very large caves and underground rivers. The property includes karst formations which are some of the oldest and largest in Asia, and it has geological, climatic, hydrographic and ecological conditions which are distinct from other limestone karst landscapes. Its cave ecosystems and habitats are unique with high levels of endemism and adaptations displayed by cave-dependent species. The property constitutes one of the largest remaining areas of relatively intact moist forest on karst in Indochina, with a forest cover estimated to reach 94%, of which 84% is thought to be primary forest. Furthermore, the property protects globally significant ecosystems within the Northern Annamites Rainforests and Annamite Range Moist Forests priority ecoregions.
Criterion (x): A high level of biodiversity is found within the property, with over 2,700 species of vascular plants and over 800 vertebrate species. Several globally threatened species are also present: 133 plant species and 104 vertebrate species have been reported, including several large mammals such as the endangered Large-antlered Muntjac, Clouded Leopard, and the critically endangered Saola. The level of endemism is high, especially in the cave systems. Furthermore, it is estimated that over 400 plant species endemic to Vietnam are found within the property, as well as 38 animal species endemic to the Annamite range. Several new species to science have recently been found, including cave scorpions, fish, lizards, snakes and turtles, and more species are likely to be discovered. Importantly, four threatened primate taxa endemic to the Annamites are found within the property: the Hatinh Langur (specialised in karst forest and endemic to Vietnam and the People’s Democratic Republic of Lao), the black form of the Hatinh Langur, sometimes considered as a separate species, the Red-shanked Douc Langur, and the largest remaining population of White-cheeked Gibbon.
The property constitutes one of the largest protected karst landscapes in South East Asia. Covering an area of 123,326 ha and bounded to the west by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, all elements necessary to manifest the outstanding geological values of the property of Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park are contained within the boundaries of the property. The inscribed property is completely surrounded and protected by a buffer zone of 220,055 ha and is designated into three management zones: a strictly protected, an ecological restoration and an administrative/service zone. The watershed protection forests in the buffer zone also protect the integrity of the property. Furthermore, the extension of the property enhances its integrity and connectivity with the karst landscape in Lao PDR. There are, however, a number of issues that affect the integrity of the property. Wildlife poaching and illegal harvesting of forest products are a direct threat to biodiversity values. The property has also suffered from past developments and its integrity could be threatened by further uncontrolled tourism developments, notably by the proposed construction of a cable car and access roads. There is a need for the implementation of Environmental Impact Assessments for any projects which could negatively affect the site. This would ensure that the natural landscape, geologic and geomorphic values, and key features such as primitive forest, caves, rivers and streams within the inscribed area remain intact. The property is situated within an area of high population density and as such a number of activities, such as cultivation, tourism, transport and freshwater fisheries could also impact on its integrity.
Protection and management requirements
Originally designated as a Nature Reserve in 1986, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park was established in 2001 under the Decision 189/QD-TTg by the Prime Minister and is managed by a Management Board. The Management Board is responsible for protection of forest resources and biodiversity and was established in 1994. Cave conservation and the provision of a tourism service are the responsibility of the Cultural and Ecological Tourist Centre under the Management Board. The property is also included in the Special National Heritage List (2009), and the Special Use Forest system (1999). The National Park is effectively protected by a number of national laws and government decisions, which prohibit any action inside or outside the boundaries of the National Park or a World Heritage property that may have a significant impact on the heritage values.
A Strategic Management Plan has been in place since 2012 and is based on existing plans, including the Sustainable Tourism Development Plan, the National Park Operation Management Plan and the Buffer Zone Development Plan. The Management Board oversees law enforcement programmes including ranger patrols and joint law enforcement operations on the border with Lao PDR. Nevertheless, the rugged nature of the country and community dependence on natural resources coupled with relatively limited resources for enforcement means that wildlife poaching and illegal timber gathering are difficult to eradicate and remain a challenging issue.
The Ho Chi Minh highway, constructed outside and to the north of the property is appropriately located and provides important and valuable benefit to the National Park in terms of opening up views of and access to the Ke Bang forest area. However, other road construction and tourism development will require rigorous and comprehensive assessment of environmental impact before decisions are made on whether they should be permitted or not. It is paramount that such developments do not impact on the karst and biological values for which the property has been inscribed. Impacts of increased development pressure and tourism numbers will also require continual consideration, planning and management to ensure that these pressures do not damage the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The property clearly has impressive levels of biodiversity within its intact forest cover, however, up-to-date data on large mammal species is also needed to confirm the population status of reported large mammals including tiger, Asiatic black bear, Asian elephant, giant muntjac, Asian wild dog, gaur and the recently discovered saola.
IUCN MANAGEMENT CATEGORY
II National Park.
Indochinese Rainforest (4.5.1).
The National Park is located in Quang Binh province, within the Minh Hoa and Quang Ninh Districts, central Vietnam. The property is located in the middle of the Annamite Mountain Range to the southwest of the Gianh River, 40 km from Dong Hoi City. The property’s western boundary is on the Lao-Vietnamese border, which at this part of Vietnam is only 42 km from the sea. The Park lies between 17o 22’ to 17o44’ N and 105o 46 to 106o24’ E.
DATES AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT
The caves have long been appreciated and visited by people as one of the great landscapes of Vietnam.
1986: Phong Nha Cultural and Historical Site is declared (5,000 ha).
1993: Phong Nha declared a Nature Reserve and is extended to 41,132 ha.
2001: Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park is established by Decision 189/2001, incorporating part of the limestone plateau in the Ke Bang Conservation Area.
2003: Inscribed on the World Heritage List under Natural Criterion viii.
2010: Property is renominated under natural criteria viii and x but referred by the Committee in 2011.
2014: Property is renominated and expanded under natural criteria viii, ix and x.
2015: Inscribed as a Natural World Heritage Site under criteria viii, ix and x.
Owned by the state. It is managed by the Phong Nha-Ke Bang Management Board under the jurisdiction of the People’s Committee and Department of Environmental and Natural Resources of Quang Binh province. The forest is managed by the General Department of Forest Protection of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The World Heritage property covers 123,326 ha and is surrounded by a buffer zone of 220,055 ha. The property itself is divided into three zones: a strictly protected area (100,296 ha), a regeneration area (19,619 ha) and an administration area (3,411 ha).
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is one of the two largest limestone regions in the world. The property at its lowest point is around 100 metres above sea level, however, there are also dozens of limestone peaks that rise above 1000 metres, most notably of which are Co Rilata (1,128 metres above sea level) and Co Preu (1,213 metres above sea level).
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is in the Central Annamite Mountains and its bordering lowlands and is in one of the largest and most distinctive tracts of karst topography in the world. It comprises a wide deeply dissected plateau of some 200,000 ha extending into Hin Namno, a similar area in Laos. Its geological history is traced back to the late Ordovician-early Silurian period around 460-400 million years ago. The limestone is discontinuous, being interbedded with shales and sandstones and capped by schists and granites, rising to a number of unexplored peaks over 1,000m high. The extensive transitional landforms derive from an extremely complicated intercalation of limestone massifs and terrigenous terrain which has produced three distinctive types of topography. Two-thirds of the property is Cenozoic karst, and a smaller area is mainly made of Mesozoic karst. The rest of the property is a non-karstic landscape of low round-topped mountains of intrusive rock with planation surfaces and abrasion-accumulation terraces along the valleys of the Son and Chay rivers and on the margins of the central limestone massif.
As a result of tectonic uplift and sea-level changes over time, some seven successive periods of karst formation have created an underground landscape of great complexity. This includes fossil passages at varying levels, major changes in the routes of underground rivers, once buried and now uncovered palaeokarst, and evidence of changes in the solutional regime, some by hydrothermal action. This has resulted in a network of 17 major explored caves and some 300 smaller caves and grottoes extending over 104km underground. The active river caves are divided into the ten caves of the Phong Nha system discharging to the Son River, and the eight caves of the Vom system, discharging to the Chay River. The variety of forms is immense: dry caves, terraced caves, suspended caves, dendritic caves, intersecting caves, giant speleothems and unusual forms such as sub-aerial stromatolites. Since 2009 the Son Doong cave, on the Son river, running underground at least 5km by 150m wide and 200m high is now famous as the world’s largest cave. Son Doong cave possesses beautiful sand beaches and spectacular speleothems, but at present is open only to scientists and speleologists. Phong Nha cave, with a surveyed length of over 44.5km and 14 grottoes, is the best known. Its entrance is the last stretch of the underground Chay River, a tributary of the Son which itself flows underground for 20km. Two beautiful caves, Thien Duong and Tien Son, are nearby. Other extensive caves include the Vom cave system, 15km long, and the Hang Khe Rhy cave system, 18,9km long. Phong Nha–Ke Bang contains the catchment area of many but not all of the streams and rivers that feed the Gianh river. Flooding of the valleys occurs between September and November, but in the dry season from February to August almost all the streams dry up.
The climate is tropical, hot and humid. The annual mean temperature ranges between 23o and 25oC, with a summer maximum of 41oC and a winter minimum of 6oC. The hottest months are from June to August, with a mean of 28oC; the coldest months are from December to February with a mean of 18 oC. The high annual rainfall averages 2,000-2,500mm, 88% falling between July and December, though there is rain in every month and on more than 160 days a year. The mean annual relative humidity is 84%.
Remote sensing data from 2005 showed that 93.6% of the Park was forest-covered, of which primary forest covers 83.7% (IUCN evaluation report). The flora is transitional between the northern and southern floristic zones of the country. Initial field surveys have so far recorded 2744 species of vascular plants in 939 genera and 196 families (in 2014). The area is a centre of endemism: 427 species are endemic to Vietnam, and one, Hopea hongayanensis (CR) is endemic to the site. There are 116 species listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam Plants (1996) and in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants in 2006. But new species are continually being discovered.
Forest covers the vast majority of the property, mainly in the north and centre of the site, covering most of the limestone of the Park. This dominant cover (\~58% of the whole property) is a dense wet tropical evergreen lowland forest, followed by much smaller areas of such forests above 700m (25%) and below 700m on hills (9%). The upland forest grows on rough towers of karst along the narrow limestone range on the Vietnam-Laos frontier. The lowland non-karst forest grows on low hills of sandstone, schist and acidic granite with a relatively moist thick soil with surface streams. It is also important to note that large samples of primary coniferous forests on rocky limestone exist in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park. This form of vegetation is very rare and is composed of sub-endemic and endemic species like the recently discovered Calocedrus rupestris. Some of these individuals are over 500 years old and represent a unique community of global importance. This community contains very rare orchid species such as Paphiopedilum concolor and P. malipoense. There is also a notable dense 50 sq.km forest on limestone of about 2,500 Calocedrus rupestris (EN) and Calocedrus macrolepis (VU) trees. It is the largest such forest in Vietnam, and most of the trees are 500–600 years old. Other vegetation types include relatively small areas of grasses and scrub on both limestone and soil, permanent wetland forest, rattan and bamboo forests. There is also some agricultural land.
The forest contains giant buttressed trees up to 50m high with woody climbers, a canopy layer and understorey. The most common species include Hopea hainanensis, Sumbaviopsis albicans, Garcinia fragraeoides, Burretionendron hsienmu, Chukrasia tabularis, Photinia aroboreum and Dysospyros saletti. In the thin well-drained soil seedlings can grow only in crevices and holes in the limestone where soil has accumulated, so growth is stunted and regeneration after disturbance is slow. The evergreen forest on soil has scattered deciduous trees such as Dipterocarpus kerri, Anogeissus acuminate, Pometia pinnata and Lagerstroemia calyculata. The dominant plant families are the Lauraceae (48 species), Fagacaeae, Theaceae, Rosaceae, and Orchidaceae (28 species), of which the rare Paphiopedilum dianthum (EN) is one. There are also scattered gymnosperms such as Podocarpus imbricatus, P. neriifolius, and Nageia fleuryi. The 13 endemic species of tree are: Burretiodendron hsienmu, Cryptocarya lenticellata, Deutrizanthus tonkinensis, Eberhardtia tonkinensis, Heritiera macrophylla, Hopea hongayanensis (CR), Illicium parviflorum, Litsea baviensis, Madhuca pasquieri (VU), Michelia faveolata, Pelthophorum tonkinensis, Semecarpus annamensis and Sindora tonkinensis.
The fauna of the Park is typical of the limestone karst forests of the Annamite Mountains. 813 vertebrate species were recorded in 2011 incorporating 154 mammals, 314 birds, 117 reptiles, 58 amphibians and 170 fish. These 813 vertebrate species span 141 families and 38 orders. The discovery of novel species is highly likely based upon the upward trend in the property’s recorded species richness over recent years. Reported mammals include Asian elephant Elephas maximus (EN), Asiatic wild dog Cuon alpinus (EN), Indochinese tiger Panthera tigris corbetti (EN), Himalayan black bear Ursus thibetanus (VU), Malayan sun bear Helarctos malayanus (VU), giant muntjac Muntiacus vuquangensis, Sumatran serow Capricornis sumatraensis (VU), gaur Bos gaurus (VU), and the secretive antelope-like saola Pseudoryx nghetinhensis (CR) only discovered in 1992, though it should be noted that there have been no confirmed observations for many of these species for many years. The site is particularly rich in primates, with nine species and subspecies, forming 43% of the total number of species residing in Vietnam. These include three primates endemic to Indochina: the red-shanked douc langur Pygathrix nemaeus (EN), red-cheeked gibbon Nomascus gabriellae (EN) and Bengal slow loris Nycticebus bengalensis (VU). Others primates are the black-crested gibbon Nomascus concolor (CR), northern white-cheeked gibbon N. leucogenys (CR), pygmy slow loris Nycticebus pygmaeus (VU), northern pigtailed, stump-tailed, Assam and rhesus macaques Macaca leonina (VU), M. arctoides (VU), M. assamensis and M. mulatta. The area has important endemic populations of Hatinh langur Trachypithecus hatinhensis (ebenus) (EN) and Francois’s langur T. francoisi (EN) (Haus et al., 2009). These are the largest populations in Vietnam and probably the only ones living in a protected area. Other smaller mammals include Sunda pangolin Manis javanica (EN), smooth-coated otter Lutrogale perspicillata (VU), Owston’s civet Chrotogale owstoni (VU) and the recently discovered Annamite striped rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. The property is also an important area for bat species (Vu Dinh Thong et al., 2012). There are 46 bat species recorded within the property, equivalent to 43% of the total number of bat species found within Vietnam.
The area is part of both an Endemic Bird Area and an Important Bird Area (Birdlife International 2014). Eight bird species are listed in the Vietnam Red Data Book and 20 in the 2012 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. They include five species of pheasant: Vietnamese pheasant Lophura hatinhensis (EN), Edward’s pheasant L. edwardsi (EN), Siamese fireback L. diardi, imperial pheasant L. imperialis and crested argus Rheinardia ocellata. There are also four hornbills, including wreathed, rufus-necked, brown and great hornbills Aceros undulatus, A.nipalensis (VU), Anorrhinus tickelli and Buceros bicornis. Other uncommon birds are the chestnut-necklaced partridge Arborophila charltonii, red-collared woodpecker Picus rabieri, green peafowl Pavo muticus (EN), the recently rediscovered endemic sooty babbler Stachyris herberti, short-tailed scimitar babbler Jabouilleia danjoui and the endemic bar-bellied Pitta elliotti. Of the 175 recorded reptile and amphibian species (117 species of reptiles and 58 species of amphibians), 24 were listed in the Vietnam Red Data Book (2007) and 15 listed in the 2012 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Among these are the Chinese three-striped box-turtle Cuora trifasciata (CR) and keeled box turtle Cuora mouhotii (EN). The 72 fish species quoted in the nomination include four locally endemic including Chela qaungbinhensis, but 162 further species have subsequently been found (Clarke, 2004). A cave survey in 2012 cited in the property’s nomination file indicates that 58 invertebrate species were identified, including two new species and one new genus of scorpion (Vietbocap). Many of the new species have yet to be described. Furthermore, 369 insect species, ranging over 40 families and 13 orders have been identified in the property, 270 of which were butterflies. Considerably higher numbers for all animal species may be quoted since undescribed specimens of both flora and fauna are regularly discovered, for instance the geckos Certodactylus phongnhakebangensis in 2002 and Lygosoma boehmei in 2005.
Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, with the neighbouring Him Namno Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos, is one of the largest remaining areas of intact forest habitat on limestone karst in Indo-China. The site is critical in understanding the geological and geomorphological development of the region. The property contains some of the oldest and largest caves in Asia which produce some unique environmental conditions. The presence of tall lowland forest, a regionally threatened habitat type, increases the site’s conservation value and the accompanying wildlife is very rich. Furthermore, the degree of endemism is high, particularly within the cave networks, and novel species to science are commonly being found. The Park lies within a Conservation International-designated Biodiversity Hotspot, a WWF Global 200 priority ecoregion and an Endemic Bird Area.
Neolithic axe heads and artefacts have been found in some of the caves. The Phong Nha Cave has long been a site of religious importance and was a place of Muslim worship in the ninth and tenth centuries. An old Champa era Temple was also discovered in the cave. In 1550 Duong Van An was the first author to leave a record of the Cave, and on one of the dynastic urns at Hué, the area was depicted as one of the great landscapes of Vietnam. At Maria Mountain in the north of the Park, there are some relics of Ham Hghi the last king of the Nguyen dynasty before the French colonial period. During the anti-colonial wars, the forest and caves were used as a refuge and a base. Until recently two small groups of indigenous hunter-gatherer people inhabited the caves or the forest living on hunting and forest products of which they have intimate knowledge. They used simple tools and their clothes were made from the bark of a toxic forest tree Antiaris toxicaria and lianas. They have been using a number of economically valuable species, such as the precious timbers go mun ebony Diospyros mun (CR), go hue Dalbergia mammosa (EN), oil-yielding species like tau Hopea hainanensis (CR) and Cinnamomum balansae (EN) and many medicinal plants.
LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION
People from two indigenous groups, the Ma-Coong of the Van Kieu group and the Ruc of the Chut group currently live in two villages in the property, Arem and Yen Hop (59 households of Ruc). They number about 400 people and are the two smallest ethnic groups in Vietnam. Local communities take part in meetings with rangers and the Park Management Board. In 1992, the Government of Vietnam set up two new settlements for them, though the elders of the villages have been reticent to move. Within the buffer zone there was a total population of some 54,000 in 2008, the majority being from the Kinh, the country’s majority ethnic group. Population growth in the region is rapid and poverty is widespread, with many people dependent upon the exploitation of forest products as part of their livelihoods. Some 1,000 local people have been employed in the tourist industry around Phong-Nha.
VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES
The Phong Nha Cave has long been a place of religious and touristic importance to the people and one of the most visited sites in Vietnam. The Trading and Tourism Department of Quang Binh province is responsible for tourism in the site. Visitor numbers increased each year from 1993 to 2008 with 1,000 in 1993, 5,000 in 1995, including 200 foreign tourists, to 28,000 in 1997, including 1,900 foreign tourists. At 2008 there was a peak of 303,015 domestic visitors and 8,615 foreign visitors. Since then domestic visitors have reduced to 266,021 in 2012, though foreign visitors have continued to increase and as of 2012 was at 10,626. Phong Nha is the principal attraction, with teams of boatmen taking people 1,500m into the cave. The beautiful Thien Duong cave, discovered in 2005, is also partly open to visitors, but many caves are closed because of the danger to tourists. Adventure river tours and ecotours are offered, also mountain climbing and trekking. There are currently eight standard tour routes within the property. Tourists can utilize these routes by being transported around the property on one of the two transportation vehicles (48 combined seats) or on one of the 310 motor boats. There are currently thought to be 100 international standard hotels and guesthouses in the province owned by private and service companies. State companies have 15 hotels and guesthouses in the whole province. The forest guards of Son Trach commune in Bo Trach district provide security and there is a rescue team for tourists if so required. There is a new small plane airport nearby.
SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES
The cave system has long been known to the people and was explored by westerners from the late 19th century on. From 1990 onwards, extensive research and surveys of the system were conducted, originally under the leadership of H. Limbert from the British Cave Research Association in co-operation with the Faculty for Geology and Geography of Vietnam National University. Speleological expeditions by this group were also made in 1992 and 1994. In 1991 the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI) surveyed the area’s vegetation cover, flora, fauna and socio-economic characteristics in preparation for a management plan for the Reserve. Between 1991 and 1995 a survey of primate species was made by a group of scientists from FIPI and Xuan Mai Forestry College. From 1996 to 1997 research on the biodiversity of Phong Nha led to a symposium on biodiversity conservation along the Laos-Vietnam frontier. Further surveys of the bird and mammal fauna were made by a team of scientists organised by Fauna and Flora International in 1998, to assess the conservation importance and priorities of the National Park. In 1999 scientists from the Vietnam-Russia Tropical Centre also conducted zoological and botanical surveys in the Ke Bang area. As part of a new management program for the National Park, a research unit was established in 2003. Research on the area’s biodiversity and cave systems continues and new caves and new species of both flora and fauna are regularly found. Cave exploration is curtailed by the dangerous conditions but in 2009 it culminated in the discovery of the Son Doong cave, the world’s largest, at present open to scientists only; 20 more caves in a system of 56 km were also discovered then. The property also has a Centre for Scientific Research and Wildlife Rescue which supports 30 staff. The centre was established in 2004 and manages a botanical garden and a wildlife rescue centre.
At the national level management of the Park is the responsibility of the Forest Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Direct responsibility for Park management lies with the Phong Nha-Ke Bang Management Board, under the jurisdiction of the People’s Committee of Quang Binh Province. This was created in 2000 to implement the management plan of the National Park which superseded that created for the Nature Reserve in 1993. One section of the Board oversees forest resources and biodiversity protection. It also conducts awareness raising and educational programs with the local authorities and people, and implements programs such as rare orchid cultivation to raise the standard of living of people in the buffer zone. The conservation of cave systems, historical relict landscapes and the developments of tourist services are entrusted to the Phong Nha Historical Relict and Landscape Management Board. The local people do not otherwise participate in Park management. In 1998, a Transboundary Biodiversity Protection Plan was initiated between Laos (Hin Namno Reserve) and Vietnam which could eventually preserve a vast 315,000 ha area of forested karst. The neighbouring provincial authorities of both countries have met many times to discuss co-operative management of the two reserves. There are currently several memoranda of understanding and other agreements between the two countries. There are annual or biannual meetings and a transboundary protection plan and wildlife control action plan are in place.
The National Park is included in the Master Plan for economic development in Quang Binh Province for 1997-2010. This included an Investment Plan which has elements of a management plan but was not very detailed (People’s Committee, 1999). It included maps and classifications of the ten forest types and cultivated land, a geomorphological map, land uses and zoning. The three zones are: the Strictly Protected zone (about 76% of the area), Ecological Recovery zone (20%) for the regeneration of destroyed forest, and Administrative & Service zone (4%) (People’s Committee, 1999). Protection of the watershed to prevent floods in the coastal plain is also very important. The Investment Plan for the National Park includes Programs for Protection, Forest and Wildlife Regeneration, Education & Scientific Research, Infrastructure, Tourism & Education and a Socio-economic Program. These programs cover activities such as the construction of a Park Headquarters and guard stations, equipment for staff, reforestation, research on threatened wildlife, training of staff and guides, and resettlement and provision of health and education services to the Ruc and Ma-Coong peoples. In 2011 IUCN raised concerns regarding the lack of an up to date management plan for the site. There is now an updated strategic management plan which started in 2013 and will be in effect until 2025.
Although the human population density of the National Park is low, its natural resources are under great pressure from the expanding population surrounding it. One of the principal threats to its wildlife is the intensive hunting needed to meet the very high local demand for wild meat, with the consequent decline of species such as wild pig, binturong and primates. This threat has been somewhat reduced through the confiscation of guns but low funding for staff has limited the control of poaching for the live wildlife trade. Illegal timber extraction is a widespread problem, particularly for valuable species such as go mun ebony, go hue woods and trees used in the extraction of essential oils. Exploitation of rattan is reported to have exhausted this product in several areas. Limestone quarrying is not controlled. Forest burning and clearance by cultivators and hunters has affected many areas near villages. Although bat populations are under no immediate threat, caves and roosting areas are frequently disturbed by human activities. Protective procedures and regulations for the buffer zone are lacking.
Regulation by the provincial authorities of opportunistic commercial activities in the buffer zone is not very effective. But economic development projects in the zone are promoted to reduce the pressures on the Park, and some of the Ma-Coong and Ruc ethnic peoples who lived in the limestone caves and gather forest products have been encouraged to move into settlements. Another threat to the Park is the rapid expansion in visitor numbers and the attendant infrastructure, which is encouraged by the government as part of the development of the region. Of particular concern is the proposed cable car to the Son Doong Cave, which as of yet has not had an environmental impact assessment undertaken. However, tourist facilities are scattered, and are not systematically planned. This development is centred on the Phong Nha Cave, where problems of water pollution, rubbish and damage to biodiversity are increasing. Remedial measures include training for staff and tourist guides, bans on the use of motor boats and fuel lights in the caves, and establishing waste collection sites. A regular dry season threat to the forest is forest fires, which is being met by stronger fire control measures, education of the locals practising shifting cultivation, and a reforestation program.
A major constraint to the Park’s integrity and its rare primate populations is a 24 km stretch of road that was constructed around the time of the original nomination and is dividing the main cave area from the rest of the Park. This road links Highway 20 with the Ho Chi Minh National Highway further south. A 12 km section of the road follows the cliff-lined Chay River, which is the habitat of the largest known populations of Hatinh and black langurs, which are restricted to this area and a few other spots in Laos.
For the period 2000-2005, the Phong Nha-Ke Bang Management Board had a total of 115 staff. The Board is headed by a Director with two Deputy Directors, who supervise three sections, each having a Head. The Forest Protection Section had 94 staff with nine units with nine guards in each who provide site security. The Scientific Section has eight staff, comprising 2 zoologists, 2 botanists, 2 silviculturalists, and 2 socio-economists. The General Section with 10 staff provides administrative and logistical functions. The Culture and Tourism Management Team of 15 supports tourist services and manages cultural relics (People’s Committee, 1999). Between 2007 and 2015 the staff at the property rose to 202 full time staff and 266 contract staff, though staff levels fluctuate consistently.
Initial funding was provided mainly by the Government, and concentrated on salaries and establishing infrastructure such as offices. From 1993 to 1999 some 6,000,000,000 Vietnamese Dong (±US\$420,000) was invested. In Phase 2 an investment of 21,000,000,000 Vietnamese Dong (±US\$1,500,000) was planned. US\$100,000 has been allocated for improving the standard of living of local people in the buffer zone and reducing their impact on the National Park. Quang Binh provincial sources provide about US\$600,000 for tourism activities, with the sale of tickets to visitors and other tourist services providing revenues estimated at US\$100,000 per year. International donors provide funds for survey and research programmes, such as the US\$147,000 LINC project from the U.K. government. Between 2005 and 2007 the German government provided €14.2 million (US\$11.8 million) to improve protection and management, and FFI provided US\$132,000 for training in management and conservation awareness. The Government has continued to provide funding, and from 2007 to 2015 the government provided \$200,000 annually to support the payment of salaries, construction and office operations. Ticket sales and tourism bring in approximately US\$1 million a year.
Forest Environment and Resource Centre (FREC) of the Forest Inventory and Planning Institute (FIPI), Thanh Tri, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Forest Protection Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, 2A – Ngoc Ha Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Vietnam.
Department of Conservation and Museology, Ministry of Culture and Information, 51 –53 Ngo Quyen – Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi.
Quang Binh Forest Protection Department
The People’s Committee of Quang Binh Province, Dong Hoi, Vietnam.
Conservation and Museology Department of Quang Binh Province, Dong Hoi, Vietnam.
Department of Science, Technology and Environment of Quang Binh Province. Dong Hoi, Vietnam.
The principal source for the above information was the original nomination and re-nominations for World Heritage status and the IUCN evaluation reports.
Anon. (1993). Management Plan of Phong Nha Nature Reserve Quang Binh Province. Unpublished report, Ministry of Forestry, Hanoi.
Anon. (2009). Britons claim to find world's largest cave, Daily Telegraph, 1 May.
BirdLife International (2010). Important Bird Areas factsheet: Phong Nha. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
BirdLife International (2014b) Important Bird Area Factsheets: Phong Nha, Ke Bang and Hin Namno. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org in January 2016.
Cao Van Sung & Le Quy An (eds.) (1998). *Environment and Bioresources of Vietnam. Gioi Publ. Hanoi.
Clarke, M. (2004). New species found in Vietnam. Practical Fishkeeping.
Duckworth, J. ,Salter, R. & Khounboline (eds) (1999). Wildlife in Lao P.D.R.: 1999 Status Report, IUCN/Wildlife Conservation Society/Centre for Protected Areas & Watershed Management. Vientiane.
Eames, J., Lambert, F. & Nguyen Cu (1995). Rediscovery of the sooty babbler Stachyris herberti in central Vietnam. Bird Conservation International. 5: 129- 135.
Haus T., Vogt M., Forster B., Thanh Vu N., and Ziegler T. (2009) Distribution and Population Densities of Diurnal Primates in the Karst Forests of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam. International Journal of Primatology 30:301–312
IUCN (2010). The Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN, Cambridge, U.K.
IUCN (2011). IUCN Evaluation of Nominations of Natural Properties to the World Heritage List. Gland, Switzerland.
Lang, C. (2000). Vietnam: Road-building threatens Phong Nha Nature Reserve. World Rainforest Movement Bulletin 41.
Le Xuan Canh et al. (1997). A Report of Field Surveys on Biodiversity in Phong Nha Ke Bang Forest (Quang Binh Province, Central Vietnam). IEBR / FIPI / Forestry College / University of Vinh / WWF Indochina Programme. Unpublished report.
Meijboom, M. & Ho Thi Ngoc Lanh (2002). He Dong – Thuc Vat / O Phong Nha – Ke Bang Va Hin Namno. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park . WWF, Hanoi.
Nadler, T. (1996-1997). Black langur rediscovered. Asian Primates 6 (3 & 4): 10-12.
Nguyen Binh (1961). Brief introduction of mountainous minority people of Quang Binh province. Ethnology 23, Hanoi.
Nguyen, H.N. (n.d.). Conservation of Forest Genetic Resources in Vietnam. Forest Science Institute of Vietnam, Hanoi.
Nguyen Quang My & Limbert , H. (1993). Tropical Karst in Vietnam. Hanoi University. (2002). Ky Quan Hang Dong Vietnam (The Wonders of Vietnamese Caves). Trung Tam Ban Do Va tranh Anh Giao Duc, Hanoi.
Nguyen Quoc Loc, (1984). The Minority Ethnic Groups of Binh Tri Thien Province. Thuan Hoa Publishing House.
Nguyen Xuan Dang, Pham Nhat, Pham Trong Anh & Hendrichsen, D. (1998). Survey Results of Fauna in Phong Nha-Ke Bang. FFI Indochina Programme / IEBR, Hanoi. (in Vietnamese).
Ovel, C. & Nguyen Thi Dao (1998). LINC: Linking Him Namno and Phong Nha Through Parallel Conservation: Phase 1 Phong Nha Ke-Bang Nature Reserve, Vietnam Draft project document. WWF Indochina Programme, Hanoi.
People’s Committee of Quang Binh Province (1999). An Investment Plan of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh Province. Summary report. 12 pp.
Pham Khang (1985). The development of karst landscapes in Vietnam. Acta Geologica Polonica. 35 (3-4). Pp. 305-319.
Pham Nhat, Do Tuoc & Truong Van La (1996-1997). Preliminary survey for the Hatinh langur in north-central Vietnam. Asian Primates 6(3 & 4): 13-17.
Lippold, L. (1993). Distribution and status of the douc langurs in Vietnam. Asian Primates 5 (1 & 2): 4-6.
Pham Nat, Do Tuoc & Truon Van La (1995). A Survey for Hatinh Langur (Trachypithecus francoisi hatinhensis) in North Central Vietnam. WWF/PCT.
Timmins, R., Do Tuoc, Trinh Viet Cong & D. Hendrichson (1999). Preliminary Assessment of the Conservation Importance and Conservation Priorities of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang Proposed National Park, Quang Binh Province, Vietnam. Fauna & Flora International– Indochina Programme, Hanoi.
UNESCO, World Heritage Committee (2005). Report on the 29th Session of the Committee. Paris.
Vu Dinh Thong, Pham Duc Tien, Nguyen Truong Son, Tran Thi Lua, Vu Thi Thuy, Nguyen Thi Thiep, Pham Kim Vuong, Dinh Hoang Tuan, and Le Thuc Dinh (2012) Biodiversity survey of bats in and around the Phing Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Quang Binh, Vietnam. A report for the Nature Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management in Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park Region Project.
Wikramanayake, E. et al. (2002). *Terrestrial Ecoregions of the Indo-Pacific: A Conservation Assessment. Island Press, New York.
April 2001. Updated 3-2003, 7-2006, 11-2010, 5-2011, 1 2012, and 12-2015.