An elephant in the Yok Don National Park (Photo:VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) - World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) and Vietnamese nature authorities on December 14 kicked off an emergency project to protect the biggest herd of elephants in the country from extinction.

The project, which is being undertaken by WWF Vietnam and the Yok Don National Park in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, will focus on the enforcement of environmental law and mitigation of human and elephant conflicts.

The mitigation job is developed on the basic elephants’ custom of seasonal movement and tasks to improve livelihood for local residents in the Central Highlands.

Under the project, training courses for forest rangers on the topic of law enforcement as well as skill for investigating habitat sites will be open for the ranger divisions in the region. WWF Vietnam will support the task of photo traps to monitor the elephants.

The Yok Don Park will be equipped with a system of spatial monitoring and reporting tools called SMART, which have proved its effectiveness following pilot use for monitoring the rare creature saola in the central provinces of Thua Thien- Hue and Quang Nam.

The Central Highlands is home to the biggest herd of elephants in the country, accounting for 70 percent of national elephant population. The protection of this region’s elephant herd is significant to the preservation of Asian elephants in Vietnam.

According to the park’s director Do Quang Tung, the park is a hotspot for encroachment activities and its topography allows easy access from the park’s four sides.

A report by WWF Vietnam said the elephant is a species that requires a vast habitat area but its living space and moving corridors have been narrowed due to human encroachment into the forest.

General Department of Forestry’s figures showed that in the last 40 years, from 1975 to 2015, the population of Asian elephants in Vietnam has decreased by 95 percent. In Dak Lak, a total of 23 elephants were killed for souvenir items such as tusks, tail hair, and foot, which are sold illegally in the province.

Experts said this is the last chance to protect the elephants before the pachyderm faces a painful extinction in Vietnam much like the Java rhino.-VNA