Phuong National Park
Alternative site name(s)
Ninh Binh, Hoa Binh and Thanh Hoa
20o14' – 20o24'N, 105o29' – 105o44'E
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Topography and hydrology
Cuc Phuong National Park lies at the
south-eastern extent of a limestone range that runs north-west
to Son La province. This limestone range predominantly comprises
karst, marine in origin and perhaps 200 million years old.
The section of the limestone range encompassed by the national
park rises sharply out of the surrounding plain, to elevations
of up to 636 m. This section is around 10 km wide and 25
km long, and has a central valley running along almost the
The karst topography exerts a dominant influence on drainage
patterns in Cuc Phuong. Most of the water
that the national park receives is quickly absorbed by a
complex underground drainage system common to mature karst
landscapes, often emerging from springs on the lower slopes
flanking the national park. For this reason, there are no
natural ponds or other standing bodies of water within the
national park, and there is only one permanent watercourse,
the Buoi river. This river bisects the western end of the
national park from north to south, and feeds the Ma river,
the major river in Thanh Hoa province.
The vegetation of Cuc Phuong National Park
is dominated by limestone forest. In some places, the forest
is stratified into as many as five layers, including an
emergent layer up to 40 m in height. Due to the steep topography,
however, the canopy is often broken and stratification is
unclear. Many individual trees show well developed buttress
roots in response to the generally shallow soils. The national
park contains particularly large specimens of certain tree
species, including Terminalia myriocarpa, Shorea sinensis,
and Tetrameles nudiflora, which have been developed as tourist
attractions. There is an abundance of timber trees and medicinal
Cuc Phuong National Park has an extremely
rich flora. To date, 1,980 vascular plant species in 887
genera and 221 families have been recorded at the national
park. In terms of number of species, the best-represented
families in the flora of Cuc Phuong are
the Euphorbiaceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Rubiaceae, Asteraceae,
Moraceae, Lauraceae, Cyperaceae, Orchidaceae and Acanthaceae.
The flora of Cuc Phuong contains elements
of the Sino-Himalayan, Indo-Burmese and Malesian floras.
The high known floral diversity at Cuc Phuong
can, however, be partly attributed to the high level of
survey effort directed at the site.
Floral surveys have identified three vascular plant species
known, to date, only from Cuc Phuong: Pistacia
cucphuongensis, Melastoma trungii and Heritiera cucphuongensis.
Cuc Phuong National Park is also considered
to be one of seven globally significant Centres of Plant
Diversity in Vietnam.
Cuc Phuong supports populations of several
mammal species of conservation importance, including the
globally critically endangered Delacour's Leaf Monkey Trachypithecus
delacouri and the globally vulnerable Owston's Civet Hemigalus
owstoni. In addition, the nationally threatened Leopard
Panthera pardus has been recently recorded at the national
park. Furthermore, over 40 bat species have been recorded
at the national park, including 17 species from a single
cave. Unfortunately, several large mammal species, including
Tiger Panthera tigris and White-cheeked Crested Gibbon Hylobates
leucogenys, are believed to have become extinct at Cuc Phuong
in recent times, mainly due to high hunting pressure and
the relatively small size of the national park.
To date, 313 species of bird have been recorded at Cuc
Phuong National Park. Cuc Phuong is situated at
the northern end of the Annamese Lowlands Endemic Bird Area
(EBA). However, only one of the restricted-range bird species
characteristic of this EBA, Short-tailed Scimitar Babbler
Jabouilleia danjoui, has been recorded at the national park.
Cuc Phuong qualifies as an Important Bird
Other taxa that have been studied at Cuc Phuong include
snails, 111 species of which were recorded during a recent
survey, including 27 species endemic to the national park
and its immediate surroundings. Subterranean cave-dwelling
fish have also been studied, and at least one species recorded
at Cuc Phuong is thought to be endemic to the limestone
range: Cuc Phuong Cat Fish Pterocryptis
(=Parasilurus) cucphuongensis; this species has subsequently
been recorded at Pu
Luong proposed nature reserve. There are currently 280
butterfly species known from the national park, seven of
which were new records for Vietnam when they were first
identified in 1998.
Other documented values
Cuc Phuong National Park is a popular
tourist destination, and receives large numbers of visitors
each year, mostly domestic tourists. Due to the large number
of visitors, Cuc Phuong has high potential value for raising
awareness of environmental issues among the general public.
This potential has already been partly realised by, for
example, the construction of a visitor centre at the national
park, which opened in mid 2000.
Cuc Phuong National Park is an important
site for biological research and for training scientists:
many undergraduate and graduate students visit the national
park on field courses.
Cuc Phuong has historical value as an archaeological site.
Prehistoric human remains, up to 12,000 years old, have
been found in caves in the national park. In addition, a
fossilised marine reptile was recently found in the national
park; this is the first discovery of its kind in Vietnam.
The forest at Cuc Phuong provides several
essential hydrological services to local communities. For
instance, the forest protects the watershed of the Yen Quang
reservoir, which provides water for domestic and agricultural