Wild ox makes comeback, but habitat loss looms
  • | Tuoi Tre | May 30, 2011 12:18 PM

>> Part 1: Tracing down wild gaur in Vietnam’s forests

In the Cat Tien National Park, which straddles the provinces of Dong Nai, Lam Dong, and Binh Phuoc An, rangers find 5,000 traps laid for gaurs and bears every year.

Remains of a male gaur trapped to death in Cat Tien national park

They have also discovered the remains of 10 gaurs, or wild oxen, since 2006.

When they succeed in trapping a gaur, especially a male one with good-looking, sharp horns, poachers chop off its neck to get the head bone, a favorite ornament for rich people.

Its bile is also extracted since it is believed to have medicinal properties.

Poaching remains the dark side of the battle to protect the gaurs though a recent comeback by the giant creatures is an encouraging sign.

Pham Thanh Nhan, deputy head of the Dak Lua forest management unit in Cat Tien, told Tuoi Tre that in 2002 he and his staff rescued a 400kg male gaur that had been caught in a trap some 10km from his station.

“We heard its distressing roar while patrolling near the spot. Five of us managed to hold its rear leg tightly while I cut a cable in the trap to release the animal.”

This is a fairly regular occurrence.

Rangers on patrol found one gaur skeleton each in 2006 and 2007 and three more in 2008, all of them caught in traps.

But not a single case of gaur poaching has been investigated by the police since the gaur is not listed as an endangered animal unlike the rhinoceros or tiger, Cat Tien park director Tran Van Thanh said.

Apart from trapping, habitat loss due to illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming, and construction of hydropower plants remains a permanent threat to many wild animals including the gaur.

Two power plants, Dong Nai 3 and 4, and a 10-km-long road are now under construction in Cat Tien and are sure to bring about poor consequences to the natural habitat there, he said.

“It will badly affect the natural habitat of the gaur that they may move from Vietnam to Laos and Cambodia.”

If these threats to the habitat are not addressed, a USD816,000 French-funded project in 2006-2009 to preserve the gaur in Cat Tien would have been in vain.

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