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More in the forest than at home, these are the most general words about the staff of Vu Quang National Park, where the first saola was discovered in Vietnam.
“Asian Unicorn” – Vu Quang cow
In 1992, vestiges of saola and large gills were first discovered in Vu Quang National Park, Ha Tinh. This shocked the world, scientists at the time thought it was “almost impossible”, when people thought they knew all about large mammals.
Initially, the scientific community called saola by the English name “Vu Quang Ox”, ie Vu Quang cow, because it has a close family with cows.
According to Master Nguyen Viet Hung, Head of Science, Technology & International Cooperation Department, Vu Quang National Park, the discovery of the saola, dubbed the “Asian Unicorn” and the large gill, was in the middle of the jungles. 1990s made the scientific world know the incomparable value of this land.
The pride in the first place where saola was discovered is evident in the eyes and voice of each Vu Quang resident. Almost any resident in the highland town of Ha Tinh has talked about the discovery of saola, and how the world’s rarest animal became the mascot of SeaGames 31, held in Vietnam. year 2022.
This ancient animal only exists in the wild mountains, where the border between Vietnam and Laos is located. Called “Asian unicorn”, because it is so rare. Two ancient and rare elements make saola a pride in Vu Quang. The image of the saola being cherished, any traces of herbivores are also sought after by everyone. People liken the white spots on Saola’s head to be no different from “the stars shining in the night forest”.
In addition to pride, many elderly people in Vu Quang have more regrets when it comes to saola. In the 70s and 80s of the last century, when Vu Quang National Park was still the Vu Quang Forest Enterprise (1977-1993), it was not uncommon for people to catch Saola. At that time, people just thought it was a breed of “long-horned goat”, because at a glance like a goat, it had straight horns about half a meter long, very beautiful. Nghe Tinh area at that time was still poor, and no one paid attention to conservation, so people often set traps to bring back for meat.
Vu Quang people still say today, at that time, every 2-3 days, they caught a saola. They took the meat to eat, and the head and horns kept as decorations in the house.
Because of this, in 1992, when the domestic and foreign scientific teams of the Forest Investigation and Planning Institute, the Ministry of Forestry and the WWF organization with the Indochina program in Vu Quang, Ha Tinh, when surveying, they were extremely surprised. course. The DNA sample test results were then recognized by world scientists as a new species.
The team also discovered the medium-sized deer, which is very closely related to the common gill (Muntiacus muntjak), but has many different characteristics. This species was named the large gill (Megamuntiacus vuquangensis) after the local name of the land where it was discovered “Vu Quang”.
Vu Quang from a remote area in Ha Tinh, suddenly became the focus of Vietnamese and world scientists. Many foreign scientific journals and WWF at that time devoted many articles about Vu Quang Ox and Megamuntiacus vuquangensis. Later, Vu Quang Ox, officially known as Pseudoryx ngotinhensis.
Thanks to the biodiversity, domestic scientists even likened the discovery of Vu Quang to finding the “lost world”.
In addition to saola and large gills, studies show that there are 1,828 plant species in Vu Quang, of which 133 are endangered species, which are in danger of extinction and need to be prioritized for conservation.
The fauna has the presence of 94 species of mammals, 315 species of birds, 89 species of reptile amphibians, 88 species of bony fish, 316 species of butterflies… including many endangered species. This is an ideal environment for learning, sharing experiences and scientific research for researchers and organizations when visiting the area as well as traveling to experience wildlife.
Step up “Asian Unicorn”
Spending more time in the forest than at home, officer Dinh Trong Hoang, Department of Science, Technology & International Cooperation, Vu Quang National Park, summarizes his work. Each month, Hoang stays in the forest for about 27 days. The work of researchers like Hoang is quite complicated. In a nutshell, go to the forest, set traps, and coordinate with forces such as border guards and police to prevent traps and illegal hunting.
The male ranger, born in 1993, said that when he first entered the garden, he could not imagine the amount of work that was so much and so hard. “I just think to do well in forest management and protection. I don’t think I have to go to the forest so much. But gradually it became a passion, regardless of steep steep passes, erratic wind and rain, crossing streams and passes. It’s hard to say, Vu Quang is beautiful, many places are so beautiful that it’s silent.”
Forest Resource Management Engineer – Vinh University said that although there are still difficulties in terms of regimes and equipment, he and many staff of the Park have a passion for proving the diversity of the Park and preserving it. protect it.
Every day and night through the forest, Hoang is only subsidized 80,000 VND. Not to mention forest rain, cold dew. During the day in Vu Quang, the temperature is 39oC, but deep in the forest it is only 16oC. Carrying 25kg of personal belongings including photo traps, food, clothes, hammocks, sleeping bags, a group of at least 6 people like Hoang can stay in the forest for at least a dozen days.
Although he has never seen saola with his own eyes, Hoang has met large gills, striped rabbits, endemic animals of Vu Quang National Park, and countless rare plant species.
“Not seeing is different from not being able to. Good protection of the park’s natural ecological environment is a condition for saola to come, and to ensure that other existing plant and animal species have the conditions to reproduce,” Hoang said.
The work of Hoang and the garden staff has brought many results. Some new species were discovered here such as Vu Quang dwarf frog, Danh Ky dragonfly. Regarding plants, there are Vu Quang yellow flower tea, Ha Tinh yellow flower tea; rub the gland; Vu Quang wood incense; join Danh Ky; Tan by Vu Quang’s words; chestnut Vu Quang. These results are published in prestigious international journals.
The name of the Garden leader is sometimes given to new species. In recent years, it can be mentioned that Danh Ky dragonfly and Danh Ky dragonfly are named after the current Director of Vu Quang National Park, Mr. Nguyen Danh Ky. “At first, we didn’t mean to put it together, we used a different word. But this word is a bit close in sound to the word stingy in Nghe Tinh, so it was changed to cham”, Hoang said.
Hoang’s time, even though it was hard, was still much better than it was more than 10 years ago. That was the time of Deputy Director Toan or Head of Department Hung. The two men, approaching the age of “three heavens”, said they never forgot their 2012 forest patrol trip.
The impact of a storm at that time caused heavy rain in Vu Quang, “locking” the mission for more than 20 days in the forest. When the food ran out, the group groped to the edge of the forest, where there was a phone signal, to call the Garden to rescue.
Mr. Toan said that in the past, in addition to going to the forest more difficult than now, he also had to bear the sadness of the wilderness, because the trail in front of the garden gate was rarely visited by people. Between 2009 and 2010, there were new officials in the garden, sometimes when they were too free, they went to the trails … to lie down and play, and there was no car hit all day.
This man worked for a month. On his first salary, he bought some gifts to give to his family, also in Vu Quang, and then “hello mom, go”. Disappeared to Hanoi to do business since that time.
“Young people often do not have enough patience and endurance. It’s a little difficult to leave. Many garden workers come from other places, but because of Vu Quang’s beauty, they consider this place as their homeland,” Toan said.
It is difficult for words to describe the pristine and magnificent beauty of Vu Quang. The green Ngan Sau River, the vast Ngan Trui Lake, the majestic Truong Son range, surround the town like a valley with thousands of trees and birds.
Master Nguyen Viet Hung, said that Vu Quang National Park is endowed by nature with countless interesting spots such as Rao Rong Khe, emerald green water winding more than 20km. Thang Day waterfall is more than 40 years high like a white silk strip falling in the middle of thousands.
Magnet slot “falls on top of waterfalls” and clear blue lake. Tu Ky rock beach with a very unique landscape, Hau Thanh area with a population of dozens of ancient crocodile trees witnessed through many ups and downs of history.
Ngan Troi Lake gives Vu Quang National Park a new look with a flooded area of more than 4,000 hectares and forming 32 independent oases. Lake Ngan Troi is one of the three largest reservoirs in Vietnam.
The concentration of a large number of migratory birds, water birds, aquatic animals and the clear blue lake bed has created a magnificent, unspoiled landscape with potential for ecotourism development.
Those who have been with Vu Quang since he was still in the cradle, say that in addition to the favor of nature, the renovating hands of humans have contributed to changing the appearance of this place. The roads are almost 100% paved, scattered with a few small alleys and concrete roads.
Talking about consciousness, Vu Quang can be proud. There are no clutters such as urban places, trees, lakes, everything belonging to nature is strictly preserved. There is no racing, noisy car, everyone on the road is aware of giving way to each other, small cars give way to big cars. It was almost impossible to see the fighting on Vu Quang’s roads.
Mr. Thai Canh Toan, Deputy Director of Vu Quang National Park, said that ten years ago, anyone who went to this highland country also asked: “Is there anything to eat?”. The saying refers to the meat of wild animals. At that time, eating wild animals was fashionable. Now such a thing is no more. People’s consciousness has changed a lot thanks to the mobilization of the Park staff, the State agencies, and the strictness of the law.
A number of itinerant courts have tried to imprison people who ate rare animals, making a strong contribution to changing perceptions. In the past, pangolin hunting and bloodbath were not uncommon. Now everyone knows “cutting pangolin’s blood with 7 calendars”.
When the park was newly established, a leader of Ha Tinh called it “the most hot spot in Indochina”, because illegal hunting takes place every day. Any animal can be brought to the drinking table. Pangolins, chamois, birds, snakes, have no shortage of food.
The time of smut is over. Vu Quang people now consider wild animals as friends, not food. The awareness of nature protection has been raised, many people actively bring wild animals raised from childhood to hand over to the Park. Most are monkeys, which are bought and raised by people in Vu Quang and many places in Ha Tinh since childhood.
Mr. Nguyen Sang Trang, deputy head of the Department of Environmental Education, Vu Quang National Park, said many people even name monkeys as their own. In the garden, there is a half-year-old monkey named Chi Chi. The day Chi Chi was brought up to hand over the garden, a household in Ho Chi Minh City. Ha Tinh also invited the shaman to come up and do the ceremony properly. Some families even raise pythons. When handing over, they also perform a ceremony to read and worship.
“The owner of Chi Chi said that they bought this golden monkey from an unknown seller. Monkeys have been kept in captivity since childhood, so now gardeners have to change their eating habits slowly. One is for the monkey to adapt to the inherent wild food, the other is for it to be healthy enough to find and integrate into the new herd in the forest, “Mr. Trang said.
Chi Chi’s previous “family” said they were very comfortable when bringing monkeys to the Garden, just hoping that the Garden would create conditions for them to visit from time to time. Later, when the Garden brought Chi Chi back to the wild, the family also wanted to say goodbye.
Chi Chi is not the only case in Vu Quang National Park. There are many monkeys, pythons, birds, pheasants, handed over by people everywhere. There are many people from as far as Nghe An, Nam Dinh also come, because they know it is almost impossible to find a second place in the North Central region as safe as Vu Quang.
With an area of more than 57,000 hectares with a flooded area of more than 4,000 (ha) and forming 32 independent oases. Dense forest covered. Vu Quang becomes the promised land of many wild animals and plants.
In the past few years, hundreds of rare and endangered animals have been selected by people and authorities in Vu Quang National Park to be cared for and monitored before being released back into the natural environment: Pig-tailed macaques (Macaca leonina); Red-faced macaque (Macaca arctoides); Moldy monkey (Macaca assamensis); White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys); Golden Monkey (Macaca mulatta); Little loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus); Python reticulatus (Python reticulatus); Paguma larvata (Paguma larvata); Civet civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), Yellow-fronted box turtle (Cuora galbinifrons); Manouria impressa turtle (Manouria impressa)…
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