Recognizing population of Asian Elephant Elephasmaximus Linnaeus, 1758 in Bac Tra My and Hiep Duc districts, Quang Nam province
The Asian elephant Elephasmaximus Linnaeus, 1758, is distributed in 13 countries across South Asia and Southeast Asia, spreading over an area of about 486,800 square kilometers with a population of about 48,323–51,680 individuals in the wild. Although the Asian elephant population in general has declined slightly over the past 20 years, it has declined sharply in Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. The main threats to the species' survival are habitat loss and fragmentation, human-elephant conflict, poaching and illegal trade of elephant body parts. Asian elephants are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (2021) and on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 2019).
In Vietnam, Asian elephant populations are critically endangered with only about 104–132 individuals remaining in the wild. The Asian elephant is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) in the Vietnam Red Book (2007) and in Appendix I, List of endangered precious and rare species prioritized for protection under Decree 64/2019/ND-CP of the Government, and belonging to group IB, Decree 06/2019/ND-CP of the Government. The current forest elephant populations are only scattered in the 6 provinces of Son La, Nghe An, Ha Tinh, Quang Nam, Dak Lak and Dong Nai. The Quang Nam Provincial People's Committee established the Elephant Species and Habitat Conservation Area in Quang Nam province in 2017. In the research published in 2020 of the Green Truong Son Project, an elephant population was identified in the Quang Nam Provincial Elephant Species and Habitat Conservation Area with 08 elephant individuals.
Within the framework of the cooperation agreement between the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and the Quang Nam Provincial People's Committee, the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources has carried out a scientific project with the goal of determining the number of flocks, individuals, age structure and sex, the living area and habitat of the elephant population in Bac Tra My and Hiep Duc districts, Quang Nam province, as a scientific basis to give orientations for conservation of the elephant population in situ or relocation (ex-situ).
Research results have directly observed, recorded images and measured many parameters in the field (footprints, feces (old and new), habitat, food...) of the elephants. At the border between Phuoc Tra and Phuoc Gia communes, Hiep Duc district with coordinates (535608/1713256), scientists have recorded a population of elephants with two individuals. Initial analysis results show that the elephant population has only two females, no males, including an adult female of about 40–45 years old and a semi-adult female of about 20–25 years old.
Survey team in Bac Tra My, Hiep Duc. Photo: Nguyen Dinh Duy
Elephant individuals recorded in the study area. Photo: Nguyen Dinh Duy
The current living area of the elephant population consists of heavily impacted and scattered forest fragments, located on the boundary of four communes Tra Doc (Bac Tra My district), Phuoc Tra, Phuoc Gia and Que Luu (Hiep Duc district). The total area of the elephants is about 3,500 ha, of which 3,000 ha (accounting for 85.7%) are affected natural forests, the rest (500 ha) are planted forests and local people’s cultivated land. These areas have terrain and habitat suitable to the ecological characteristics of elephants: the terrain is not too steep, the secondary forest of woody plants and mixed forest of bamboo and wood, interspersed with grasslands, with food and water sources.
The results of this survey are an important scientific basis for developing an in-situ conservation plan for the elephant population in Bac Tra My and Hiep Duc districts, Quang Nam province or ex-situ conservation of this elephant population to Quang Nam Elephant Species and Habitat Conservation Area, contributing to the long-term conservation of the elephant herd, population stabilization, and socio-economic development of Quang Nam province.
Translated by Phuong Huyen
Link to Vietnamese version