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Muong Nhe Nature Reserve

Alternative site name(s)
Muong Nhe-Muong Cha, Muong Te
Lai Chau
182,000 ha
21o50' – 22o35'N, 102o10' – 102o58'E
From Hanoi
From Sapa
Not available.

Topography and hydrology

Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is located in Muong Te and Muong Lay districts in the extreme north-west of Vietnam. The nature reserve is bounded by the international border with Laos in the west and the international border with China. The topography of Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is dominated by medium-high mountains. The average height of these mountains is around 1,200 m but there are several peaks above 1,800 m, and the highest point, Mount Phu Nam Man, reaches 2,124 m.

Biodiversity values

Muong Nhe Nature Reserve supports only 47,400 ha of forest, equivalent to 15% of the total area of the nature reserve. This figure comprises 9,920 ha of lowland evergreen forest (distributed at elevations below 800 m), 19,850 ha of lower montane evergreen forest (distributed at elevations between 800 and 1,800 m), 1,705 ha of upper montane evergreen forest (distributed at elevations above 1,800 m) and 15,925 ha of bamboo forest. The remaining area of the nature reserve comprises 204,201 ha of grassland, and 43,980 ha of shifting cultivation and scrub. The dominant vegetation type at Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is, therefore, grassland, which accounts for 66% of the total area. This vegetation type is dominated by Imperata cylindrica, Themeda gigantea, Thysanolaena maxima, Saccharum spontaneum and Erianthus arundinaceus.

Before the 1990s, Muong Nhe was considered to be an important area for the conservation of large mammals. For instance, scientists estimated that there were more than 200 Asian Elephant Elephas maximus at Muong Nhe in the early 1970s. However, following the border war with China in 1979, automatic weapons became more widely available in the area, and the population sizes of most large mammal species declined. By the time of the WWF/Ministry of Forestry survey in 1991, large mammals were already scarce at Muong Nhe: Tiger Panthera tigris was described as "rare", Gaur Bos gaurus was described as "possibly facing extinction" and Asian Elephant was described as "almost extinct".

Based on the results of the BirdLife/FIPI rapid field survey, there is no evidence for the continued occurrence of Asian Elephant at Muong Nhe, while other large mammals only survive in small, isolated groups, as a result of habitat fragmentation.
In addition, the BirdLife/FIPI team received reports from local people that indicate that White-cheeked Crested Gibbon Hylobates leucogenys may still occur at the nature reserve.

The feasibility study prepared by WWF and the former Ministry of Forestry contains a provisional list of 222 bird species, while the first and second investment plans report that 270 bird species occur at Muong Nhe Nature Reserve. However, as it is unclear whether these data were collected by field survey, compiled from past reports or predicted based on known distributions, few conclusions can be drawn from these figures. A more reliable source of information on the avifauna of Muong Nhe is the field survey conducted by Frontier-Vietnam in 1997. This field survey recorded 158 bird species in the nature reserve and the area immediately to the south.

Other documented values

Remaining forest areas in the nature reserve have an important role in protecting the water resources of local communities and the watershed of the Black River.

. Muong Nhe is the only protected area in Vietnam that supports more than 20,000 ha of agricultural land, scrub and non-natural grassland. Ways of reducing the extent of agricultural land, scrub and non-natural grassland through redefinition of this protected area's boundaries should be sought.


2. The proposal to extend Muong Nhe to 314,000 ha (an increase of 132,000 ha) will mean that over 250,000 ha of non-forest land will be supported inside its boundaries.

In October 2000, FIPI and BirdLife International conducted a rapid field survey of Muong Nhe Nature Reserve, in order to assess the conservation status of the site, and to re-evaluate the importance of the site within Vietnam's protected areas system.

Muong Nhe was established in 1976, after a decision by Lai Chau Provincial People's Committee. The nature reserve was decreed by the central government in 1986. Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is situated in Muong Te district, Lai Chau province, at the point where the borders of Vietnam, China and Laos meet. The total proposed area of Muong Nhe Nature Reserve is over 300,000 ha. Despite its size and status, the site has no management board and nature reserve management regulations are not enforced within the nature reserve.
The dominant vegetation types at Muong Nhe are grassland, scrub, bamboo forest and regenerating forest. In the early 1970s, the site supported significant populations of large mammals, including a population of Asian Elephant Elephas maximus estimated at more than 200 individuals. However, as a result of uncontrolled hunting and habitat loss, all large mammal populations have declined dramatically, and some species, including Asian Elephant, have already been eradicated. The results of the rapid field survey indicate that Muong Nhe Nature Reserve may support remnant populations of a number of species of global conservation concern, including Gaur Bos gaurus, White-cheeked Gibbon Hylobates leucogenys, Asiatic Black Bear Ursus thibetanus and Sun Bear U. malayanus.

However, as hunting pressure shows no signs of decreasing, it is likely that all of these populations will continue to decline.
The socio-economic studies undertaken during the rapid field survey revealed a very high level of human dependence on forest resources. The human population density in the area is increasing, particularly as a result of spontaneous in-migration. In Muong Toong commune alone, 82.5% of total population comprises in-migrants. This rapid population increase has led to an increase in forest clearance for agriculture and an intensification of hunting pressure.

Based on the results of the rapid field survey, this report recommends redefining the boundary of Muong Nhe Nature Reserve, to exclude large areas of non-forest habitat of marginal conservation importance. The proposed revised boundary includes a total area of 61,571 ha, comprising parts of Sin Thau, Chung Chai, Muong Nhe and Muong Toong communes. Forest cover within the revised nature reserve would be 59.2%, and the enforcement of nature reserve management regulations within the revised nature reserve would be more feasible. The revised nature reserve would be contiguous with Phou Dendin National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Laos.







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