Posted on March, 21 2023

In order to establish the foundation for a wildlife conservation plan during the 2023-2035 period, a series of expert workshops on species conservation is being organized from March 13 to March 17, 2023.
The workshops are organized by the Biodiversity Conservation Activity, a part of Sustainable Forest Management and Biodiversity Conservation Project (VFBC), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The workshops are also technically supported by experts from Re:wild and the IUCN SSC Conservation Translocation Specialist Group.

This event includes three specialized workshops: 1) Species conservation planning (March 13-14, 2023), 2) Species reintroduction, translocation, and rewilding (March 15, 2023), and 3) Species reintroduction planning (March 16-17, 2023).

What is rewilding?
Rewilding is an approach that restores natural ecosystems, and can involve reintroducing native species, and protecting ecological processes. By doing so, rewilding can help to recover lost biodiversity, restore or improve ecosystem functions and services, and enhance the resilience of ecosystems against environmental stresses and climate change.

Why does Viet Nam need to focus on rewilding?
Viet Nam is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with a high number of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. However, over the past few decades, Viet Nam has experienced rapid economic growth and development, which has led to the destruction of natural habitats, overexploitation of natural resources, and significant loss of biodiversity.

There are several reasons why rewilding is needed in Viet Nam:
Habitat loss: Habitat destruction, degradation, and fragmentation are major threats to biodiversity in Viet Nam. Large areas of forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems have been destroyed or degraded due to agricultural expansion, logging, mining, and urbanization, as well as the loss of wildlife populations that help to maintain forest functions. Rewilding can help to restore and reconnect fragmented habitats, creating larger and more diverse ecosystems that can support a wider range of species.

Species loss: Many species in Viet Nam are threatened with extinction due to hunting and other human activities. Due to decades of hunting in Viet Nam to supply the demand for wildlife meat that has led to the so-called ‘empty forest syndrome’, there are very few forest areas that will be able to recover naturally, even if threat levels are greatly reduced. Rewilding, through the reintroduction of the full complement of native species to their former habitats, is one approach to promoting the recovery of wildlife in Viet Nam in the short- and medium-term. Many species of wildlife play a crucial role in forest function, e.g. as seed dispersers. Loss of wildlife is a key factor leading to forest degradation.

Climate change: Viet Nam is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, and changes in temperature and rainfall patterns. Rewilding can help to increase the resilience of ecosystems to these impacts, by restoring natural ecological processes such as carbon sequestration, water cycling, and soil formation.

Overall, rewilding is an important approach for restoring and protecting biodiversity in Viet Nam, enhancing ecosystem functions and services, and promoting sustainable development.

We believe that rewilding is the only viable strategy to restore wildlife populations to the way that they should be in Viet Nam. If we had introduced the rewilding concept 20 or 25 years ago, we might have been able to save the Sao la from potential extinction. We urge experts and decision makers in Viet Nam to work together to restore the remaining species that still have a chance of full recovery through rewilding” said Mr. Nick Cox, Chief of Party, USAID Biodiversity Conservation.

Dr Barney Long, Senior Director of Conservation Strategies for Re:wild, said: “Restoring a natural ecosystem after being heavily disturbed by human activities is crucial to enhance the effectiveness of species conservation efforts. This process involves restoring natural processes and the entire (or nearly entire) food chain. This creates a self-sustaining ecosystem. Developing a Species Conservation Strategy will provide a framework and direction for effective conservation actions, involving the participation of all parties responsible for species. Creating safe havens for species in national parks/nature reserves is the cirtical first step, but estabishing conservation breeding facilities for species close to extinction in Viet Nam is important to start now to both prevent these imminent extinctions, but also provide the potential to reintroduce species into Viet Nam’s wild parks in the future to restore functioning ecosystems.”

“Rewilding has been applied all over the world and there are many successful lessons Viet Nam can learn from. If there is one thing we have learned it is to act early, based on the best available information, and collaboration is key to success” said Dr Axel Moehrenschlager, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission Conservation Translocation Specialist Group.

According to Dr. Vu Thanh Nam, Deputy Head of the Department of the Forest Protection Division under the Viet Nam Administration of Forestry: "Issuing a general plan for endangered and endemic species is essential in the near future. This plan will help to guide and coordinate conservation efforts, mobilize resources in aunified and synchronized approach. A priority action is to develop scenarios for species with low numbers, solitary populations, or critically endangered species, and consider actively relocating, releasing, and breeding priority species."
The significant presence of national and international experts on species conservation.
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam
Mr. Vu Van Hung, Project Director. VFBC project, Deputy Head of the Management Board of Forestry Projects, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam
Mr. Nicholas Cox, Chief of Party, USAID Biodiversity Conservation, WWF
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam
Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, Chair of IUCN Species Survival Commission Conservation Translocation Specialist Group
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam
Dr Barney Long, Senior Director of Conservation Strategies for Re:wild
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam
The workshop received valuable contributions from experts and scientists
© USAID Biodiversity Conservation / WWF-Viet Nam