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Identifying and quantifying the threats to biodiversity in the U Minh peat swamp forests of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

2010Identifying and quantifying the threats to biodiversity in the U Minh peat swamp forests of the Mekong Delta, VietnamNUWER Rachel Love (USA)
Organisation:University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK)Supervisor :Diana Bell, Scott Roberton, Phuong Tran & Daniel Willcox
Summary: The landscape of U Minh in southern Vietnam contains the country’s last remaining fragments of peat swamp forest, including several internationally threatened and endangered species such as the hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) and pangolin (Manis javanicus). Despite the presence of two National Parks, however, illegal natural resource use by local communities has significantly impacted species’ populations. This study aimed to uncover the nature and extent of natural resource use in U Minh. Through semi-structured interviews, focal group meetings, and transects, this study found that location plays a significant role in whether or not an individual chose to harvest resources, suggesting that the National Parks are having some positive results in curtailing illegal harvesting. Evidence of human impact and resource use was found in all study sites, however. Research revealed that forest users partaking in honey harvesting, fishing, hunting, and/or wood collection were most likely middle-aged (31-49) and were composed of both sexes. Most hunting and fishing is carried out for trade purposes and most interviewees preferred consuming livestock, suggesting that resource users do not rely upon natural resources for subsistence but rather for supplementing income. People who prefer consuming wildmeat were more likely to harvest natural resources than people who prefer livestock, demonstrating that these behavioral issues are linked to some extent. Interviewees’ preference for wildmeat type decreased with price, contrasting to urban consumers who value more expensive wildmeat varieties and suggesting that alternate factors are driving wildmeat consumptions amongst the rural Vietnamese. Finally, the majority of interviewees perceived a decrease in species populations, crediting the decline primarily to human harvesting pressures and thus indicating that strict regulation of illegal harvesting activities is necessary for protecting remaining species populations.