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Cat Ba Island

The Spectacular Home of the Cat Ba Langur

Cat Ba Island is situated in Ha Long Bay, 50 km to the east of Hai Phong City, in Northern Vietnam. It is the largest of 366 islands in the Cat Ba Archipelago, and has a surface area of about 140 square km. Ha Long Bay was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1994 and the Cat Ba Archipelago shares the same distinctive rugged appearance and scenic beauty. The area is one of the world's best examples of a Karst landscape invaded by the sea. Some 1500-2000 large and small islands and cliffs rise steeply from the shallow marine waters. Many of these islands reach towering heights of 50 to 100m with sheer vertical cliffs on all sides. Spectacular relief and bizarre rock formations provide evidence of a long history of erosion and landscape evolution through the sculpturing power of water. The mountains on islands both large and small throughout the Archipelage are covered by tropical, moist limestone forest. Cat Ba Island also has coral terraces, sandy beaches, freshwater wetland areas, tidal flats, mangrove forests and willow swamp. Spectacular scenery and a high diversity of landscapes make Cat Ba an attractive destination for both domestic and international tourists.

The People

Cat Ba Island is currently inhabited by about 16300 people, living in 6 communes, of which Cat Ba Town is the largest. Archaeological remains suggest that people have inhabited the Cat Ba area for at least 6000 years. Local livelihoods in the villages are built on subsistence agriculture and fishing. Comparatively new sources of employment and income at the local level are varous kind of aquaculture and tourism.

The National Park and Biodiversity Conservation

Cat Ba National Park was established in 1986. After a re-configuration of the boundaries in 2006, the park now comprises 109 square km of land area and 53 square km of inshore waters and mangrove covered tidal zones. Cat Ba National Park was Vietnam’s first national park to include both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The Park and the surrounding area are nationally and internationally recognized for their importance to biodiversity conservation, exemplified through the recognition of the Cat Ba Archipelago as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 2004. This is not only because the area has a high number of different ecosystem and habitat types but also because it possesses a great variety of plant and animal species, many of which, like the Cat Ba langur, are now rare and endangered.

More than 1500 plant species have been recorded, many of which can only be found in Ha Long Bay. Seventy-two species are listed as nationally or internationally rare or endangered. Large
mammals include the Cat Ba langur, the Southern Serow (Naemorhaedus sumatraensis), Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta), Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), black giant squirrel (Ratufa bicolor), and civet cats (Viverricula indica, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), many of which are endangered. The cave, land snail and butterfly fauna is rich including four species of true cave snails. The region is considered a hotspot for land snail diversity. Interestingly, the most northerly cave-adapted crab species also occurs here. In 2007, an extensive bat survey was undertaken. In total, 27 species were recorded including one new species as well as the first record of a species in Vietnam. Additionally, in cooperation with the Cat Ba Langur Conservation Project, a reptile survey was conducted in Cat Ba National Park by Dr. Thomas Ziegler from Cologne Zoo and Nguyen Quang Truong, from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources. This led to the discovery of the Cat Ba Leopard Gecko (Goniurosaurus catbaensis), yet another species to add to the growing list of endemic and rare species on Cat Ba. Studies such as these emphasize the need to continue and enhance scientific activities and nature conservation both on the island and within the national park.

Strangler Fig
Strangler fig tree

Near-shore fishing - Cat Ba Island

Cat Ba National Park
Entrance to Cat Ba National Park

Pit Viper
Pit Viper

(Photo Courtesy of Phan Duy Thuc)

ZGAP - Zoological Society for the Conservation of Species and Populations

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