The Kon Ka Kinh National Park and Kon Cha Rang Nature Reserve in Vietnam are now officially part of a new UNESCO biosphere reserve. This is an important development for the area, which provides new opportunities to local people and to wildlife conservation.
A new phase of nature conservation for our project in Vietnam
On September 15th, the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme established the new Kon Ha Nung Biosphere Reserve in Vietnam. 413,512 hectares in size, the reserve includes long-term FZS project area Kon Ka Kinh National Park (42,000 ha) and Kon Cha Rang Nature Reserve (15,900 ha) as core zones devoted to nature conservation. “The UNESCO recognition not only highlights the biodiversity value of the region, but it also will bring more opportunities to local communities such as access to jobs and education,” emphasizes Dr. Long Thang Ha, FZS’s project leader in Vietnam. Now 11 UNESCO biosphere reserves comprise about 15% of the country’s land.
As of 2021, there are 727 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves located in 131 countries around the globe. These Reserves cover about 5% of the planet’s landmass, which is almost equivalent to the size of Australia. About 257 million people live in Biosphere Reserves worldwide.
Biosphere Reserves unite people’s needs and nature protection. They are places where scientific and local knowledge are combined with citizen participation in management and planning. The ultimate goals are to: reduce the loss of biodiversity, improve local livelihoods, and enhance social, economic and cultural conditions in an environmentally sustainable way.
This uniting of needs makes UNESCO Biosphere Reserves different from the commonly known UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites which are specific exceptional places that are often physical or biological formations or areas that contain habitats for threatened species of animals and plants.
Some of the ways that the FZS team contributed to the creation of the Biosphere Reserve include:
- Collaborating with the Forest Protection Department in Gia Lai province to create a supporting document about the biodiversity value of the area, especially focusing on the most up-to-date information relating to grey-shanked douc langurs and northern yellow-cheeked crested gibbons.
- Providing regular up-to-date media such as videos and images of project activity and wildlife as well as landscapes within Kon Ka Kinh and Kon Cha Rang Nature Reserve to the UNESCO assessment committee.
- Taking part in critical events, such as the December 2020 UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme national meeting in Ho Chi Minh city where along with officers of Gia Lai Province, the team communicated the biodiversity value of the area to other members of MAB.
Dr. Thang Ha and his team have been advocating for the establishment of the new Kon Ha Nung Biosphere Reserve because for the team having this Reserve was a critical next step for the area.
“We are now embarking on a new phase of nature conservation in the region, with new opportunities and challenges,” says Dr. Thang Ha. Some opportunities include “habitat preservation apart from the core zones for wildlife like endemic and critically endangered species such as the grey-shanked douc langur primate (Pygathrix cinerea) and more attention being paid to nature conservation,” says Dr. Thang Ha, “also there will likely be more funds and new players putting in effort to protect nature in the region.”
Going forward local communities will take part in the management of the new Reserve, with focus placed on including indigenous and folk knowledge. The Gia Lai Province People’s Committee will also be involved in formulating policies on land and forest allocations to households, they will manage payments for forest ecosystem services, and work on developing sustainable ecotourism.
“This new status will create more opportunities for donors and local people to work together,” says Dr. Thang Ha. “In addition, provincial politicians will be promoting the Biosphere Reserve as an area of interest for ecotourism, so there will be more income for local people who will be able to sell their products to tourists such as traditional wine and handmade items.”
The FZS team in Vietnam will continue with their current work focus in Kon Ka Kinh and Kon Cha Rang. They will now, additionally, be supporting the management board of the Reserve by sharing their knowledge and expertise in conserving wildlife and forests.
The next step is to create the first 10-year management plan for the for Kon Ha Nung Biosphere Reserve. The management board of the Reserve will be in charge of this task, with support from the FZS Vietnam team.
This designation is only the beginning of this new journey for the team, FZS partners, the region, and the country. But Dr. Thang Ha is looking forward to this new phase. “We are happy to walk through this new journey. We welcomed this news as one of our achievements for nature conservation in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Thank you to all who took part in this process!”
Enjoy beautiful visuals of the Kon Ha Nung UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Video created by VTV8, a Vietnamese TV channel.
Copyright: Mr. Nguyen Hai Thuy, VTV8 filmmaker.
FZS’s contribution to the creation of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has been supported by Vietnamese partner organization GreenViet, and with financial support from Stiftung Artenschutz.