Introduction to Son Tra Nature Reserve
Producing enough oxygen for 4 million people, is home to about 1,300 rare red-shanked douc langurs, Son Tra Nature Reserve is the only remaining coastal rainforest in Vietnam. Three sides bordering the sea while the last viewing the metropolitan city named Danang, deemed the most livable city in Vietnam and a major tourist destination, Son Tra itself is the ultimate definition of harmony between man and nature.
The nature reserve covers an area of more than 4,400 ha, 13km in length with a circumference of about 60 km, and an average elevation of 350 m. Along with Hai Van Pass and Danang Bay, Son Tra Peninsula act as a natural defensive fortress sheltering Danang city from storm and foreign threats. A long time ago, Son Tra was a floating island consisting of 3 mountains. Coastal water flowing over time carrying alluvial deposits eventually formed a strip of land bridging the mainland and the island, making it a peninsula ever since.
The reserve supports a rich diversity of wildlife species. Son Tra fauna includes 287 species within 94 families with 38 orders, of which 29 species belong to rare gene sources. Among 287 species of animal, there are 36 species of mammals, 106 species of bird, with 23 species of reptiles; frogs have 9 species, and 113 species of insects. Some of them are are leopard cat, slow loris, ferret-badger and Rhesus macaque. Importantly, the nature reserve is home to an estimated of 1330 red-shanked doucs, an endemic and critically endangered primate species to the Indochina. Hence, this make Son Tra not only red-shanked douc’s most visible population, but their most viable stronghold.
The flora of the reserve is diverse in genus and species. There are 985 species of veined plants of which 143 are rich in medicinal value, 140 species have ornamental value, 31 species have traditional weaving value, 134 species of domestic wood and 57 species of tubers and fruits suitable for human and animal consumption and 22 species of rare plants. Son Tra’s natural vegetation covers 3 types: rainy closed evergreen tropical forest; regenerated forest after logging; shrubs and grasslands. Although Son Tra is a small area occupying only 0.014% of the country’s land area, the plant family accounts for 37.83% of the total plant family of Vietnam, and accounting for 9.37% of Vietnam’s species.
People and community
Son Tra nature reserve is in Tho Quang ward, Son Tra District, Danang City. Tho Quang ward is formed by two villages, Nam Tho and Man Quang with a natural area of 46.6 km2. Tho Quang ward has a population of 30,108 inhabitants with 7,668 households, 36 subdivisions of streets with 206 residential quarters. There are more than 200 agencies, enterprises and military units stationed in and around the ward. The main sectors providing employment in this area are fishing, seafood processing and tourism. The total production value of the ward accounts for over 80% of the total production value of Son Tra district. The GDP for each person in the buffer zone area is 2,115 USD per year, this low level of GDP is a source of the problem facing Son Tra.
The Importance of Son Tra
Oxygen and fresh water are vital for any beings. But to be able to live next door to a natural oxygen manufacturer and clean water resources is a privilege not many urban cities have. Son Tra’s forest releases enough oxygen for 4 million people, while its 20 big and small streams are producing 7.000 cubic meters to supply Danang’s people a day. The high mountains of Son Tra keep the citizens free from worries of strong winds and devastating typhoons.
For culture and religion
For Danang’s people, especially the fisherman community living around Son Tra, this forest offers spiritual and cultural meanings to their everyday life, permeating poetry and folk music. The historic site “Ossuaire” or also known as the burial hill is a historical witness of the local people’s resilience and courage against foreign invaders in a battle dated back 150 years ago. Linh Ung pagoda has become a place of worship, living, studying of monks and nuns, Buddhists and a sightseeing and spiritual place for domestic as well as overseas visitors.
In a world where children and adults are spending increasingly less and less time experiencing high quality natural environments, Son Tra’s educational values for the community become more evident than ever. Thanks to its ease of access and vicinity, it takes just 30 minutes tops for students to travel to this primary forest and dive into endless learning opportunities. Over the last 4 years, GreenViet’s has facilitated the vital connection between some 3000 Danang’s people, mostly school students, and nature in Son Tra Nature Reserve through our educational programs.
For national security
During the war, Son Tra peninsula was dubbed “the God’s eye of Indochina” which the French, in 1885, and the American army, in 1965, deemed one of the must-have military sites. In present time, Son Tra holds an utmost importance to the national security as it can safeguard the city’s port, shield Danang’s bay and protect the city as a whole.
For scientists, Son Tra Nature Reserve is not only a gold mine of research opportunities for its vast and diverse ecosystem, but also unique because of its convenient accessibility and proximity to the researcher. Dr. Jonathan Clayton from Minnesota University, Dr. Larry Ulibarri are some of the international scientists who have come to Son Tra to conduct their doctorate research on red-shanked doucs. Dozens of other national researchers have chosen Son Tra to be their research site.
For red-shanked douc
Son Tra is the most viable stronghold for red-shanked douc langur, a species that could face extinction in the near future without proper conservation efforts. So far, red-shanked douc in Son Tra has been the most heavily researched among its distribution range. Improved community’s awareness is giving momentum for further intensive education programs by GreenViet aiming at behavior change. Reasonably small habitat size in comparison to other habitats makes the management, monitoring and protection work far more feasible than any other places.
In other words, Son Tra is a jewel of biodiversity less than 20 minutes from the heart of Vietnam’s 3rd largest urban area and a major tourist destination. Without proper management and urgent action, this situation is untenable.