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The Asian elephants Elephas maximus of Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam: status and conservation of a vanishing population

Surendra Varmaa1, Nguyen Xuan Danga2, Tran Van Thanha3 and R. Sukumara1 c1

a1 Asian Elephant Research & Conservation Centre, C/o Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, Karnataka, India.

a2 Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Hoang Quoc Viet Street, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Vietnam.

a3 Chief of Forest Protection Department of Cat Tien NP, Tan Phu District, Dong Nai Province, Vietnam.

Abstract

This study updates the status and conservation of the Endangered Asian elephant Elephas maximus in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam. Line transect indirect surveys, block surveys for elephant signs, village surveys of elephant-human conflict incidents, guard-post surveys for records of sightings, and surveys of elephant food plants were undertaken during the dry and wet seasons of 2001. A minimum of 11 elephants and a maximum of 15-17 elephants was estimated for c. 500 km2 of the Park and its vicinity. The elephants are largely confined to the southern boundary of the Park and make extensive use of the adjoining La Nga State Forest Enterprises. During the dry season the elephants depend on at least 26 species of wild and cultivated plants, chiefly the fruits of cashew. Most of the villages surveyed reported some elephant-human conflict. Two adult male elephants seem to cover a large area to raid crops, whereas the family groups restrict themselves to a few villages; overall, the conflict is not serious. Since 2001 there have been no reports of any deaths or births of elephants in the Park. We make recommendations for habitat protection and management, increasing the viability of the small population, reducing elephant-human conflicts, and improving the chances of survival of the declining elephants of this Park. The Government has now approved an Action Plan for Urgent Conservation Areas in Vietnam that calls for the establishment of three elephant conservation areas in the country, including Cat Tien National Park.

(Received October 12 2005)

(Reviewed April 27 2006)

(Accepted August 15 2006)

(Online publication January 14 2008)

Correspondence:

c1 Asian Elephant Research & Conservation Centre, C/o Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore 560 012, Karnataka, India. E-mail rsuku@ces.iisc.ernet.in

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