World Land Trust provides an update on the wildlife recorded by the trail cameras set up in Khe Nuoc Trong, Vietnam, a project supported by the Carbon Balanced programme and British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Deep in central Vietnam is Khe Nuoc Trong, a landscape of beautiful green hills, layered against a muggy grey sky, covered in rich tropical forest. Hidden inside this postcard-perfect picture are some of Vietnam’s most striking creatures, from primates to miniature deer and magnificent pheasants.
Poaching has been so intense in this area that the remaining animals of this Annamite Lowland Forest are now very elusive, and rarely seen by the human eye. Rumours of incredibly rare mammals such as the Annamite Striped Rabbit and Large-Antlered Muntjac circulated for years before these highly threatened species were able to be confirmed as living in the area. But now that trail camera technology is a widespread tool for conservation, it has proved invaluable in habitats such as Khe Nuoc Trong, which is rich in wildlife that have adapted their behaviour to evade people, so most other monitoring methods are not successful.
Tracking the elusive wildlife
Trail cameras in Khe Nuoc Trong are set up on known wildlife paths throughout the forests, by rangers working for the Vietnamese organisation managing the reserve, Viet Nature Conservation Centre and researchers specialising in Asian wildlife.
One of the great findings from these trail cameras has been photos of the critically endangered Sunda Pangolin, which has been heavily poached for its meat and scales across its range from Myanmar down the Sunda Islands of Indonesia and Malaysia. Sunda Pangolins thrive in forest habitats and spend most of their time in trees, well camouflaged by their brown scales and using their prehensile tails as an extra limb for climbing. Their main natural predators are tigers and clouded leopards, but pangolins are one of the most heavily poached animals in the world, and all eight species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Observing mammal behaviour
Recent footage from the Khe Nuoc Trong trail cameras has recorded the foraging behaviour of mammals on the forest floor. This includes footage of the smallest known hoofed mammal, the Lesser Oriental Chevrotain, picking its way through leaf litter on the forest floor, keeping a watchful eye out for predators. Another name for this mammal is the lesser mouse-deer, which aptly describes this small, delicate animal with the body of a deer, a rodent-like face and thin, short legs which allow it to move soundlessly in undergrowth thick with leaves and branches.
The cameras have also captured the nocturnal behaviour of Khe Nuoc Trong’s civets, the Common Palm Civet and Masked Palm Civet, which patrol the forest looking for food in their omnivorous diet which includes small mammals, birds, fruits, and leaves. The footage shows the civets with their noses close to the ground, using their keen sense of smell to try and follow scent trails of possible prey. Even though both species are not considered rare or endangered, limitations have been imposed on the trade of Common Palm Civet because they are increasingly taken from the wild to be sold as pets.
Another forager spotted by the trail cameras was a young Northern Pig-tailed Macaque, using its hands to investigate the leaf litter for food and pull apart plants to taste. Pig-tailed Macaques feed on fruit and seeds, as well as young leaves, buds, shoots, fungus and small animals they can catch.
Hope for Vietnam’s wildlife
Even though the area is enclosed by plantations and roads, Khe Nuoc Trong is brimming with wildlife. Visitors and rangers refer to the empty forests, as extreme levels of poaching has thinned out the wildlife, but the evidence from trail cameras shows that though the species have suffered, many have adopted evasive and secretive behaviour to avoid hunters and can still be seen by the hidden eyes of cameras, giving us hope about the future of Khe Nuoc Trong’s incredible wildlife.