Re:wilding the Annamites
The Annamites, a rugged mountain chain on the border of Vietnam and Laos, harbors some of the world’s most threatened and least-known mammal species, several of which are found nowhere else on the planet. The mountain chain is divided into two Ecoregions, one in the north and one in the south, within the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot and contains many Key Biodiversity Areas.
Several of the species endemic to the Annamites were only recently discovered by science. The Saola is one of them: a type of wild cattle and one of the rarest animals on Earth. It’s so rare scientists have never actually seen one in the wild. The Large-antlered Muntjac and the Annamite Striped Rabbit are also recent discoveries. Another rare animal appeared in 2019: as part of the Search for Lost Species, Re:wild and the Southern Institute of Ecology and Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research rediscovered the Silver-backed Chevrotain, which had not been seen in 29 years. These tiny fanged “mouse deer” are the smallest hoofed animals in the world.
Top photo: A camera trap of an Owston's Civet, a small carnivorous mammal with an incredibly small population, largely only found in the Annamites of Laos and Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Leibniz-IZW/WWF-Laos CarBi project/Xe Sap NPA)
The Annamites are a hotspot for turtle diversity as well, but almost every species—whether softshell turtle, terrapin, or tortoise—is threatened with extinction. The mountain range is also important to the global effort to save amphibians, and is home to two amphibian centers of diversity at Ngoc Linh Nature Reserves and Bidoup Nui Ba National Park.
Poaching is an epidemic in the Annamites and has emptied forests across the region. Wire snares, set by poachers, are the biggest threats to the Annamite’s terrestrial species. Species that live in water and streams, like turtles and amphibians, are hunted as well, but because of their freshwater habitats they are not targeted by wire snares.
In order to rewild the Annamites, conservationists need to end the poaching epidemic. Some ultra-rare species, like the Saola, Large-antlered Muntjac, Annamite Pond Turtle, and Swinhoe’s Giant Softshell Turtle, have populations that are already too low and fragmented to be viable. The last hope for their survival are conservation breeding programs under human care.
Key Protected Areas of the Annamites
In order to protect and restore the biodiversity in the Annamites, Re:wild is developing
Wildlife crime prevention initiatives in key sites
Mentoring the next generation of Vietnamese conservation scientists
Fostering community-driven conservation efforts
Developing monitoring programs for individual species and the biodiversity of the Annamites
Working to better understand the drivers of snaring and poaching
Establishing a conservation breeding program for the rarest of the species with our partners, so they can be reintroduced to the wild in the near future
Camera-trapping surveys are already yielding hopeful and important finds. Evidence of the Silver-backed Chevrotain, for example, was found with a camera trap. Researchers are looking for more populations to establish how many there may be in the Annamites. Researchers have also gathered important information on the Annamite Striped Rabbit and Large-antlered Muntjac using camera-traps.
Top photo: Owston's Civet. (Photo by Chien Lee)