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QUANG BINH Since 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized Phong Nha – Ke Bang as a World Natural Heritage.
I had the opportunity with Mr. Pham Hong Thai, Director of the Management Board of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, to see the heritage mountains and forests from above, under the propeller of the red chili helicopter. Mr. Pham Hong Thai admired: “The mountains and forests are intertwined like an enchanting picture and there are more interesting things when stepping into the heart of the Heritage”.
“Kingdom of Caves” and a series of new discoveries…
Since 2003, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recognized Phong Nha – Ke Bang in Quang Binh province as a World Natural Heritage in geomorphological criteria. In 2015, UNESCO continued to honor the World Natural Heritage for the second time with the criteria of ecosystem and biodiversity. Over the years, major international news agencies and newspapers such as The New York Times, The Guardian, The Mirror, The Huffington Post… and more than 50 magazines around the world have continuously published articles of praise.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is located in the northwest region of Quang Binh province, along the Vietnam – Laos border, with a central area of over 123,300 ha and nearly 217,700 ha of buffer zone. The garden is located in 13 communes in 3 districts of Minh Hoa, Bo Trach and Quang Ninh.
Speaking of Phong Nha – Ke Bang, people will think of limestone mountains that overlap with each other. Viewed from above, the limestone mountains form a vertical shape. On that steep cliff, it was as if a giant had drawn deep horizontal lines. Up close, it was thought to be the shape of an ancient Roman citadel.
According to the survey of the geographical world, Phong Nha limestone massif is 10,000km2 large (the largest in Indochina peninsula), located on the majestic Truong Son mountain range. Scientists explain that, more than 460 million years ago, the giant hills lying on the bottom of the deep sea through geological changes and rising created a unique habitat for the World Natural Heritage. Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park.
Two dissolved minerals, calcium and carbon, in marine shells, combine naturally with seawater to form a new mineral, calcium carbonate. Over hundreds of millions of years, the geological tectonics of the earth’s crust pushed these sediments to rise from the seabed and form towering limestone mountains in Phong Nha.
Rainwater seeps into the crevices and crevices of limestone, flows down by gravity until it meets the lower sedimentary layer. This process continues without stopping, wearing down the cracks to become wider and forming giant caves. Then it is also thanks to the water that when it encounters an obstacle in the circulation process, it will leave the minerals inside at one point.
Mr. Pham Hong Thai told me: “Scientists have confirmed that this continuous process has created large and small stalactites with all shapes. All of that gradually creates magnificent wonders such as Son Doong cave, Tiger cave system, Phong Nha wet cave, Thien Duong dry cave, En cave… Since then, nearly hundreds of other large and small caves have been built. discovered by British explorers. Therefore, the title “Kingdom of caves” for Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is difficult to obtain anywhere in the world.
Up to now, no one can count how many caves in Phong Nha – Ke Bang stop. But, the number of surveying experts alone as of 2023 is nearly 500 caves. All of them are magnificent and magnificent like stalactite sculptures created by a magical hand, ready to captivate those who want to explore.
Famous “populations” startle the scientific world…
Mr. Pham Hong Thai said, last year, a new discovery “shocked” scientists when it was discovered that in Phong Nha – Ke Bang forest was “raising” an animal that the scientific world said was … extinction. This suspected extinct species is the Lao rock rat (species confirmed to have gone extinct 11 million years ago), discovered by Wildlife Conservation International (FFI) and a Vietnamese investigation team. still living in Phong Nha forest. Those are the mysteries that need to be recognized and confirmed by world science for Phong Nha – Ke Bang.
Phong Nha – Ke Bang is also proud when in the book Conservation of biodiversity in the Truong Son range (compiled by the Vietnam Association for the Protection of Nature and Environment), it affirms that it has the most diverse natural system of all the gardens. country and world biosphere reserve. Plants on limestone mountains are typical plants with shades of green, dense tropical forests 800m above sea level. “Here, we determine the coverage rate to 93.6% and primary forest to over 83.7%. Therefore, Phong Nha – Ke Bang has a lot of unique plant species that are hard to find anywhere else, “said Pham Hong Thai.
Many scientific studies have shown that, existing in the landscape of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park is a massive flora with the presence of 2,951 species belonging to 1,006 genera, 198 families, 62 orders, 11 class, 6 majors. In which, there are many large and especially rare flora populations. Mr. Pham Hong Thai said: “We have searched, discovered and put into strict protection 34 forest areas that contain ancient green cypress trees hundreds of years old. Each area has an area of hundreds of years. ha with thousands of tall and ancient cypress trees. There are trees with a root diameter of nearly 2m and tens of meters high, standing tall in the sky.”
The mountainous forests of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park are also large “homes” of many wild animals. This is home to 154 species of 90 genera, 32 families, 11 orders (most notably tigers and gaurs – the world’s largest bison); 303 bird species; there are 151 species of reptiles; 295 butterfly species; 215 fish species. Hundreds of species in this flora and fauna are listed in the Vietnam Red Book, the World Red Book and dozens of endemic species of Vietnam. In particular, the primate community in Phong Nha – Ke Bang is recorded as the most abundant in Southeast Asia with 10 species, the “quintessential” of which is Ha Tinh langur.
Recently, many new species of animals and plants have been discovered such as 2 species of scorpions living in caves without sunlight, warblers on limestone mountains, ferns in caves, green cypresses, orchids comedy, 10 new fish species, 1 strange fish that can swim upstream strongly, 4 reptile species rediscovered after 50 years of horned viper…
Ban Doong in the heart of the heritage
A few decades ago, a group of Bru – Van Kieu ethnic people living nomadic farming arrived in the land of Phong Nha – Ke Bang. Seeing that the land was safe, they set up camp as a house and settled there until today. That is Doong village (in Tan Trach commune, Bo Trach district), isolated between the core zone of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park. With 5 households initially, with a self-sufficient life, after more than 3 decades, Doong village is like a happy note in the middle of the vast mountains and forests.
Up to now, Doong village has 11 households, located in the middle of a valley surrounded by rocky mountains. I sat and drank water from the leaves of the forest with Mr. Nguyen Soai Trac – the village head. Mr. Trac is called by the people of the village by his son’s name, Old Court. “The village of Doong today is very spacious. No one in the village is hungry anymore, their children can grow up to go to kindergarten to middle school at a very nice school in the village. It is even more honored that the village has established a Party cell”, Mr. Toa’s voice echoed in the house on stilts.
Previously, the Quang Binh provincial government had many times had a plan to move Doong village out of the core area of the heritage of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park because of concerns about forest protection and environmental protection for the heritage. The custom of hunting and destroying forests for farming is difficult to ban.
However, like a miracle, the people of Doong village embarked on preserving the heritage. The Old Court directly told the story: “The first thing is that people don’t keep many dogs anymore. When I was still hunting, each family had 5-7 dogs. Every time they hunt, they chase, surround, and no animals can escape. They are very smart, know how to force the animal to run into the trap door that people have set up.” So the villagers made their “promise” to the village chief to reduce the herd of dogs, not to bring dogs into the forest. The number of hunting dogs decreased gradually as people reduced their work in the forest to hunt until the “hunting ward” and the dogs were dispersed. People in the “hunting ward” only go to the forest to protect the forest or collect tobacco leaves.
Mr. Nguyen Van Dai, Secretary of the Party Committee of Tan Trach Commune was really happy when he talked about the change in thinking and changing the lives of the Doong people. Still faithfully attached to the forest, living on the forest, but the residents of Doong village are now more confident when they are assigned by the State to zone off and protect 800 hectares of forest. “Raising forests for farming – the source of income from preserving the green of the forest has improved people’s lives and is a sustainable livelihood of the residents of this village,” Dai acknowledged.
Changing the mindset of the people of Doong village is like a “real dream”. From the period of hunting, deforestation for farming, people switched to wet rice cultivation, irrigation to bring water to irrigate to expand the area of wet rice cultivation in order to have enough food to eat all year round. When there was a grain of rice, old Toa dragged the young people along to cross the rocky mountains many times to Phong Nha town to see people milling rice by machine. The young people like it very much, wishing to have such a machine for me. Old Court without hesitation, waved his hand: “Buy it for the villagers to use”. The young men sent people back to call more manpower to the town to carry the milling machine back. Two days later, the bright red milling machine was arranged at the hut next to the village head’s house on stilts. It is the machine of the renovation period brought back to the admiration and curiosity of the villagers when they have never crossed the mountain to Phong Nha town. It must also be added that, at that time, not every lowland countryside could have an oil-powered rice milling machine like in Doong village.
After wet rice, the rice mill is the story of Doong villagers doing tourism. When the Oxalis Tourist Company put the Son Doong cave exploration route into operation, the village became a transit point for visitors to come in and out. The people of Doong village quickly caught up with this new form of welcoming guests. With the development of tourism, Doong village is not only an ideal destination for domestic tourists but also a strange discovery of foreign tourists. The village still maintains its own cultural identity and there are many things that “turn into familiar” when connected with the world…
The roar of “Mr. Thirty”…
Mr. Pham Hong Thai – Director of the Management Board of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park told us: “The motto “prevention is key, protecting the forest at the root” is a wide corridor for us to keep the heritage forest well. “. Mr. Hoang Van Tam, Head of the Forest Protection Department of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park, said: “The park ranger always maintains 13 key groups, on duty 24/24h at the forest gate and in key areas. On average, each year we deploy about 2,300 patrols and control forests with a distance of 17,000 – 20,000 km.
According to Mr. Thai, in addition to protection, rescue, conservation and biological development for Phong Nha – Ke Bang World Natural Heritage are also paid special attention by the Park Management Board. Wild animals and plants are precious natural resources in the region, making an important contribution to the ecological balance. And the staff of the Center for Rescue, Conservation and Development of Creatures (belonging to Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park) are still working day and night to perform well the rescue and conservation of wild plants and animals. wild.
Mr. Le Thuc Dinh – Director of this Center shared: “Those who rescue and care for wildlife always face the risk of being attacked by animals, the source of disease transmission. But with a special love for wild animals and plants, the Center’s staff always devote all their efforts to rescue and care for wild animals and plants to be healthy, and to reintegrate into the natural environment.
The mountains and forests of Phong Nha – Ke Bang seemed to turn around when the park’s leaders decided to receive and nurture 7 tigers. For more than a year, the staff at the Center for Rescue, Conservation and Development of Creatures forgot to eat, forget to sleep to take care of and make friends with the “thirties” who are in the “age of eating, age” big”. The initial worries were gradually eased when all 7 tigers became stronger and more mature.
Mr. Pham Hong Thai said: “We have implemented the first part of this tiger breeding project. That is, after the time of captivity from cubs to adult tigers. After that, the tigers will be moved to the semi-wild breeding area. At that time, visitors can observe and watch the tigers as if they are living in the natural environment.”
Now, when the sun rises in the morning or in the evening, mixed with the noise of the mountains and forests is the roar of the “Thirty” energetic men. The roar seems to be pushing up the sacredness of the majestic Phong Nha mountains.
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