A national park in southern Vietnam has recently been recognized as the world’s latest ramsar site.
The U Minh Thuong National Park which officially became the world’s 2,228th and Vietnam’s 8th ramsar site on February 22 is located in Kien Giang Province’s U Minh Thuong District.
The park, about 364km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, is one of the two most important areas of peat swamp forest remaining in Vietnam (the other is U Minh Ha in the southernmost province of Ca Mau).
It is also recognized as one of three areas of the highest priority for the conservation of wetlands in the Mekong delta.
According to the Ramsar Convention’s website, the park is dominated by mixed forests and Melaleuca forests of peat that cover around 3,000 ha (approximately 37 percent) of it.
It is home to distinctive flora and fauna including 32 mammal species, 187 bird species, 34 reptile and amphibian species, 37 fish species, and 203 insect species.
Many of these are globally threatened, including the endangered yellow-breasted bunting (Emberiza aureola), yellow-headed temple turtle (Heosemys annandalii), Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) and fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
It is also one of the only three sites in the world known to support a population of the endangered hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana).
The site regularly hosts more than 20,000 water birds.
Most of the fish species observed are native and the distribution of eight of these is restricted to the lower Mekong Basin.
U Minh Thuong National Park supports large areas of peat layers and a complex system of canals that can store a large volume of water.
It functions as a sponge that maintains groundwater levels and releases surface water to the surrounding areas, which helps the local population with production and daily activities.
Besides U Minh Thuong National Park, the other seven ramsar sites in Vietnam include the Ba Be National Park in the northern province of Bac Kan, the Xuan Thuy Natural Wetland Reserve in the northern province of Nam DInh, the Con Dao National Park in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, the Lang Sen Wetland Reserve in the southern province of Long An, the Bau Sau (Crocodile Lake) Wetlands and Seasonal Floodplains in the southern province of Dong Nai, the Tram Chim National Park in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap, and the Mui Ca Mau National Park in Ca Mau.