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Cuc Phuong Report News from the Cuc Phuong Conservation Project

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Cuc Phuong Report
News from the Cuc Phuong Conservation Project

Volume III Issue 2 May 31, 2000


 NTC: Pioneering a Vietnamese Solution

 National Highway; Through or Around Cuc Phuong?

CAP Developments

 CAP Reaches Fourth District

 Local staff begins training to build computer skills

 Program activities this period

Visitor Center Opens for Visitors

National Training Center Developments

 Cambodian NGO visit

 NTC: Pu Mat Program Starts in Two Communes

Biological Review

 Owston’s births

More amphibian surveys

 Medicinal Plant Study at CP

 Export Permit Requirements – Vietnam

Turtle Conservation and Ecology Project

 The Adventures of Lucky Turtle

 NYTTS Web site developed for TCEP

 First turtle births recorded at TCEP

Cuc Phuong News

 Fossil discovery at Cuc Phuong

 Leopard release

Staff News

Bulletin Board

 Core Staff needed

 New Resources Available for Vietnam


The present distribution of the Cuc Phuong Report is 342, including 147 institutions, government agencies, and non-government organizations.

NTC: Pioneering a Vietnamese Response to Conservation Education

The National Training Center for Conservation Awareness and Education (NTC) is rapidly developing to meet the educational and training needs of staff at Vietnam’s parks and protected areas. Built upon the success of the Cuc Phuong Conservation Project, the NTC provides opportunities for others to gain experience from Vietnamese experts with nearly four years of active field experience administering a successful conservation awareness program in local communities and schools, as well as with visitors at the Cuc Phuong National Park.

The NTC will soon offer a range of training courses available aimed at increasing basic knowledge and understanding about nature, the environment, and key conservation issues amongst principal stakeholder groups (e.g. protected area staff, local teachers, Youth Union, rangers, etc.), or building specific skills in response to identified training needs, such as “visitor interpretation” and “protected areas management”.
Alternatively, longer-term programs are presently available to train staff responsible for developing and implementing successful community-based education initiatives or visitor education programs within specific project areas.
“What is most important about the NTC is that we offer an opportunity for the staff of parks and protected areas, and those responsible for administering community-based and visitor interpretation programs, to learn from a successful program run by Vietnamese at Cuc Phuong” says Project Coordinator Vu Thi Quyen. “This is a Vietnamese solution in response to Vietnamese needs.”
The Conservation Awareness Program at Cuc Phuong is presently active in all four districts that border the park. More than 15,000 primary and middle school students from 43 schools participate through Conservation Clubs established at each local school. The program is carried out by counterpart teachers and local staff hired and trained from the park, local Youth Union, Teachers’ College, and other area institutions. More than 2,400 club meetings have been held since the program began in 1996, each featuring a prepared lesson aimed at increasing local understanding about nature and the environment, as well as encouraging greater participation in helping to protect the park.
The Conservation Awareness Program at the same time carries out a village-based education program for adult residents, presently completing its second round within local communities, and reaching another 15,000 to 20,000 residents thus far.
A third educational component of the Conservation Awareness Program focuses on park visitors, and is aimed at enhancing the educational value of visiting the park through visitor interpretation and special educational activities administered by the project. A major development for the visitor education program has been the establishment of a Visitor Interpretation Center at the park, presently open to visitors, but still undergoing its finishing touches.
While the advancement and progress of the project’s environmental education initiatives has been a major accomplishment for the project, the most important achievement has been the development of a well-trained and experienced staff, with the capacity to run the program on their own, and train others.
In 1999, the NTC carried out its first formal training effort for core staff of the Social Forestry and Nature Conservation (SFNC) project at Pu Mat. After eight weeks of training, Pu Mat staff returned to the nature reserve to develop a community-based environmental education program of their own. As of April 2000, the program became operational, and is currently active in seven schools of two communes, with more than 2000 student club members. The Pu Mat staff have begun the process of establishing and training a strong local staff contingent that will later assume leadership of the program.
As the NTC continues to prepare for the transfer of leadership of the Cuc Phuong program to park and local staff, Ms. Quyen is optimistic that staff possesses the skills to manage the program beyond early 2001 (when the transfer is to occur). “They are essentially running the program now, though we are working with local leadership to develop their management and other skills that will support administration of the program. At the same time, our focus is changing, using the program at Cuc Phuong to help other parks and protected areas establish successful programs elsewhere in Vietnam.”
“All too often ‘international volunteers’ are brought in to Vietnam to do this sort of work,” says Ms. Quyen. “While we are not denying the need for international expertise in some areas, environmental education has advanced through our efforts at Cuc Phuong, as well as the efforts of a few other projects in Vietnam. The NTC is a successful model built on Vietnamese expertise and experience, and should be used to benefit other projects with similar protected area management and conservation goals.”

 Training for staff of projects on development, management and implementation of Conservation Awareness Programs

 Educational Programs for Park/Nature Reserve staff and local stakeholders

 Specialized training and educational programs for focus groups

For further information about the NTC, please contact Ms. Vu Thi Quyen: 030 848004 or
National Highway Project: Through Us or Around Cuc Phuong?

Rumors of roads cutting through the park gained momentum in March with several reports published in national newspapers announcing plans by the Transportation Ministry to begin construction of the Ho Chi Minh Highway, extending 1690 km southward from Ha Tay Province, west of Hanoi, along the western side of the country to Ho Chi Minh City. The road will provide Vietnam with its second major transportation route linking the north and south, as well as improving access to western regions of the country.

However, plans call for the road to breach the borders of at least ten National Parks and Nature Reserves, including Cuc Phuong National Park, according to maps illustrated in the national press. The Cuc Phuong portion of the road would bisect the park through the western Buoi River Valley, effectively slicing off about 20% of the park’s forested area west of the river, and exposing the core zone to increased levels of human disturbance.
When press reports surfaced in March of 2000 confirming intentions to build the highway through the park, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), along with park managers and representatives from key national scientific institutions and agencies, quickly mobilized to respond to the threat to Cuc Phuong’s future.
A workshop, hosted by the Vietnamese Forum of Environmental Journalist (VFEJ) brought relevant ministry representatives (e.g. Transportation Ministry and MARD) together with scientists, park managers, conservation organizations, and national journalists to discuss the project in an open forum. Opposition to the road stemmed mainly from concern that the highway would impact the ecological integrity of Vietnam’s first national park by dividing western and eastern sections of the park along the river valley, as well as exposing the core forested interior to increased levels of human access and resource exploitation. Dr. Nguyen Ba Thu, Director of the National Forest Protection Department, referred to the park as a home that, once divided, can never function the same again. Opponents urged that the highway be re-routed around the eastern end of the park, where the impacts will have much less influence on the park’s forest ecosystem.
Key stakeholders were subsequently requested to provide input to the national government, and initial reports (as of May 31) suggested that the national government had made the decision to route the highway around the eastern end of the park. Formal confirmation of this decision is still pending.

Conservation Awareness Program

CAP Reaches Fourth District

The Conservation Awareness Program reached its fourth and final district in February, launching the school-based Conservation Clubs in Yen Thuy District. Yen Thuy District had been waiting for the program to begin in schools since early 1998, but initial efforts focused on reaching remote communities within and along the western and southern border of the park. The addition of Yen Thuy brings the total number of schools involved in the program to 43, with more than 15,300 Primary and Middle School children actively participating within Conservation Clubs organized at each school. More than 2,400 club meetings have been held since the program began in 1996. Thirty-two counterpart teachers from local schools partner the program along with 11 local staff from the park, Youth Union, teacher training colleges, and other local institutions.
Each day, five teams head out to local schools on motorbikes, some traveling for nearly three hours to reach the most remote areas around the park. Often they are met by children eagerly awaiting the opportunity to become involved with the Conservation Club’s mixture of discussions, games, and activities, aimed at encouraging greater understanding about nature and the environment, as well as the need to help protect the park and its natural resources. Students have demonstrated that they share an interest in protecting the future of Cuc Phuong through their commitment to the club and participation in Conservation Club activities.
“The process of changing people’s attitudes and developing an appreciation for nature is a long-term process for which we can not expect changes overnight” says Nguyen Hai Hau, the project’s Education Program Officer. “This investment in education forms the foundations that will support change over time,” Ms. Hau added. “Even now we begin to see the changes in small ways each day.” Ms. Hau noted that the willingness of students to become involved in activities outside of the club (such as working on the club newsletter, Green Forest, picking up litter, and participating in performances of the Village Program within their communities), show that they possess a keen interest in becoming more involved in protecting the park. At the same time, feedback from parents and teachers, as well as the willingness of students to express their ideas about nature and the need to protect the park, demonstrate a visible change within these communities.
One exercise that has helped project staff assess student interest and knowledge is the “Cuc Phuong Debate”. Visiting local students are divided into groups (park management, rangers, local communities, animals and plants, and tourists) and asked to present arguments in support of their interests as stakeholders. “You would be surprised by the realistic and knowledgeable responses from these student groups that emerge during these lively exercises” says Vu Thi Quyen, the project’s coordinator. “The arguments are real, and often emotional, with different groups defending their interests and concerns for the right reasons.” More than often, the debates end in unresolved issues. For example, all the stakeholders frequently end up agreeing that without efforts to increase the local standard of living, local people will remain (at least in part) dependent on certain resources from the park. “We see a reflection in the actual positions that exist” says Quyen. “But more importantly, students are able to visualize and assume the roles of the park, plants and animals, and even tourists, and support their positions well, demonstrating understanding of the issues.”
During a recent competition, “Community Voice in Conservation and the Environment”, students were asked to submit their ideas in stories, poems, songs and drawings about nature at Cuc Phuong. The project staff were overwhelmed with well over 1200 entries, including many excellent expressions of the student’s ideas that clearly reflected the strong attachment and appreciation for nature shared by residents living around the park.
Examples of some of the best entries are presently displayed in the Visitor Interpretation Center’s special exhibit, “The Voice of Local Communities”.
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