A project to protect Cao Vit gibbons (Nomascus nasutus), one of the rarest primate species in the world, in Trung Khanh district of the northern mountainous province of Cao Bang has not only achieved its ultimate goal but also raised people’s awareness in forest development and the efficiency of agro-forestry production.

In 2002, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) discovered 26 Cao Vit gibbons on a limestone mountain that spreads across Phong Nam, Ngoc Khe and Ngoc Con communes of Trung Khanh district.

Immediately after the discovery, FFI coordinated with forest rangers and local authorities to carry out measures to eliminate threats to the gibbon community.

Community-based preservation groups were promptly established, and all local households were encouraged to sign commitments to protect the species.

A project to preserve Cao Vit gibbons was set up in 2004. Its aim was to restore and expand the habitat for the primates in an area close to the Vietnam-China border.

In 2007, FFI helped found the Cao Vit Gibbon Conservation Area, which covers 1,657 hectares in the three aforementioned communes. Two years later, the organisation worked with the Forestry Bureau of China’s Guangxi province to set up a protective area in a 6,530 hectare adjoining forest in its Zhengxi district.

The Cao Vit gibbon conservation project started in March 2004. It has organised training courses to raise people’s awareness in protecting the species and established community patrol groups to oversee the habitat and biodiversity.

The project has also helped local residents acquire sustainable methods and effective ways in improving their livelihood and eradicating poverty, thus protecting the conservation area.

To reduce people’s dependence on forest resources, the project formed three livestock interest groups in the communes. Member households were provided with loans worth a total of 150 million VND. Additionally, more than 430 households in the localities have also been trained in cultivation and breeding techniques since 2007.

In particular, the reduction of the use of wood as fuel is considered one of the project’s main activities. Local residents have received assistance in building hundreds of fuel-efficient stoves and 22 biogas tanks which produced gas for fuel from animal waste. Fuel-wood plantations have been formed using local tree species to provide an alternative source of wood that can be used as fuel.

To control livestock grazing in forests, the project has helped local people expand fodder crops to nearly three hectares and provided facilities for livestock breeding households around the conservation area.

The project has given financial support to construct local cultural centres and coordinated with Trung Khanh district’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and its agriculture promotion office to teach rice and corn growing methods to local people.

Thanks to these efforts, the population of Cao Vit gibbons has risen to 24 troops with 129 individuals, a recent FFI survey shows.-VNA