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Limestone karsts are biodiversity “arks” containing an extremely high number of species found nowhere else in the world. In particular, organisms that are not adept at long-distance dispersal such as plants and many invertebrates are forced to adapt to the extreme conditions of either the karst surface or subterranean environments. Despite their incredibly rare biodiversity, the karst landscapes of Vietnam and Cambodia are significantly understudied, unprotected and largely unexplored.
Biodiversity experts have identified the unique limestone karst hills in the Kien Luong District in southern Vietnam as home to one of the highest concentrations of threatened endemic species, higher than any other habitat of comparable size on Earth. In particular, the karst hills in the region are of immense global conservation value for invertebrates, such as endemic snails, scorpions and millipedes. The area also hosts numerous threatened plants and the Indochinese Silvered Langur, an Endangered primate.
Meanwhile, a recent rapid survey of the nearby Kampot Karst Hills in Cambodia found over 100 species of plants in just four days, and has already revealed at least three plant species new to science. Two recent studies have identified a new species of sand fly and other cave-dwelling invertebrates.
Because the region’s karst hills are under severe threat from quarrying and habitat degradation, the establishment of protected areas is absolutely necessary to save these endemic species from otherwise certain extinction. It is for these reasons that Rainforest Trust is working with IUCN-Vietnam and IUCN-Cambodia to support the creation and initial management of two protected areas. The 1,422-acre Kien Luong Karst Hills Nature Reserve in Vietnam and the 774-acre Kampot Karst Hills Conservation Area in Cambodia will ensure that these irreplaceable biodiverse karst hills can be protected from the imminent threat of mining.
Kien Giang Province,Vietnam and Kampot Province, Cambodia
Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List)
Blind Millipede (Eostemmiulus caecus) (CR), Indochinese Silvered Langur (EN), Hon Chong Ground Beetle (Eustra honchongensis) (EN), Bedos’ and Deharveng’s Harvestman (Gnomulus bedoharvengorum) (EN), Vietnam Darkling Beetle (Harvengia vietnamita) (EN), Deharveng’s Scorpion (Isometrus deharvengi) (EN), Le Cong Man’s Beetle (Microblattellus lecongmani) (VU), Boutin’s Millipede (Plusioglyphiulus boutini) (VU)
Mining, forest clearing, unsustainable harvesting
Creation of the Kien Luong Karst Hills Nature Reserve in Vietnam and the Kampot Karst Hills Conservation Area in Cambodia
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-Vietnam and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)-Cambodia
Price per Acre
The karst hills of Southeast Asia support a great concentration of species that are highly range restricted; some are even limited to just one or two hills.
This extraordinary concentration of endemic wildlife is a result of the adaptation of species to the harsh conditions of limestone and the caves that dot the landscape. Experts believe that many hundreds of species that are unknown to science are still likely be found here. An IUCN Red List workshop in February 2016 concluded that the karst hills in the proposed protected area in Vietnam contain the world’s entire populations of at least 31 threatened species (six of which are already classified as Critically Endangered). The world’s largest known population of the Indochinese Silvered Langur, an Endangered primate whose numbers have drastically declined due to habitat loss and hunting pressure, is also found in the proposed protected area. Multiple new species have been discovered at the proposed protected area, including five species of Endangered and Critically Endangered snails (Notharinia sp. nov., Sesara sp. nov., Cyclophorus sp. nov., Macrochlamys sp. nov. and Microcystina sp. nov.), an Endangered springtail (Ceratophysella sp. nov.) and an Endangered woodlouse (Burmoniscus sp. nov.). In the absence of extensive surveys conducted in the proposed Cambodian protected area, it is not known how many globally threatened species are present. However, there is good reason to believe that the number will be comparable to that found in the nearby karst systems of southern Vietnam, as this biogeographic region is all part of the Mekong Delta Limestone Hills Landscape.
The most immediate and detrimental threat to the karst landscape is quarrying of the hills for cement and aggregate by mining companies.
Resource extraction is an ongoing challenge that threatens species, as it results in outright habitat destruction as well as habitat fragmentation and subsequent isolation of some populations. It is abundantly clear that uncontrolled mining could cause the extinction of large numbers of unique species in a very short period of time.
There are no human settlements inside the proposed protected area in Vietnam, but the surrounding region is densely populated.
The majority of the community members practice rice farming and shrimp aquaculture, while some households provide tourism services for the nearby Hon Chong beach and cultural and spiritual tourism at Chua Hang pagoda. Some community members are partly dependent on the resources within the proposed reserve for small-scale extraction such as firewood, medicinal plants and animals. These are activities which will be addressed in the newly developed protected area management plan. Local communities around the proposed Cambodian protected area depend chiefly upon seasonal rice farming and small-scale cash crop farming. Several Theravada Buddhist monasteries are located in close proximity to the karst hills and their associated religious sites. These monastic communities will be sought out to play an important role in both education and preservation of the natural habitat. Local community members are involved in ongoing botanical surveys and are supportive and eager to participate in management and ecotourism activities.
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