Located in Nghe An Province, Pu Mat National Park is the flagship park on the northern massif of the Truong Son Mountains along the Vietnamese-Lao border. The area contains some of the world’s most threatened species. Here, in these steep forested mountain slopes of the Vu Quang Nature Reserve and in the neighboring protected area of Pu Mat National Park, a team of Vietnamese and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) scientist recently discovered a new genus of large mammal, the sao la (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis).
Visitors taking Highway 7 from coastal Vinh to Pu Mat meander west through pure, rustic beauty towards the border. The park headquarters are near Con Cuong, a small “wild west” town perched on the banks of the huge and slumbering Ca River, which is itself nestled amongst precipitous karsts peaks.
Pu Mat true wilderness with spectacular features such as the Kem Waterfall is accessible only to well-organized expeditions. However, the reached buffer zone shares the park’s beauty. Park staff can direct visitors traveling on foot or b motorbike to ethnic Thai or Dan Lai (Tho) village and can even help arrange for stay in the villager’s stilt houses in the luscious, forested river valleys. Here, visitors can experience the park’s extraordinary diversity, although they wont’s glimpse the more magnificent wild animals, such as Asian elephants, tiger, sao la, Asian black bears, or yellow-cheeked gibbons.
Those who stop to rest or swim in the shimmering rivers may catch a glimpse of rare, giant black squirrels jumping through the forest canopy and might hear the crested argus, a beautiful pheasant with one of the world’s longest sets of tail feather. The buffer zone is the perfect place to see local people living together with the forest. Elderly Thai women search for gold, using stick to balance themselves in the rivers. Young men and women build large wooden waterwheels to irrigate their small fields. Local villagers will guide visitors through labyrinths of karsts caves during nighttime bat surveys. Many caves are over ten kilometers long. Surveys have shown that these caves may contain the greatest diversity of bat species in Vietnam.
Habitat destruction and hunting threaten the park’s animals and plant, which deserve the highest global priority for conservation. The Pu Mat National Park staff is working hard to save this jewel for future generations.