VietNamNet Bridge – An action plan to conserve elephants in Nghe An, Dak Lak and Dong Nai was approved by the Prime Minister six years ago, in 2006. However, no considerable progress has been made so far.
Scientists say elephants seriously endangered
Local authorities slow in taking actions
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) said that the elephant conservation plan has been going slowly, because localities have not have money to implement the plan. Therefore, the ministry has asked the Prime Minister to extend the elephant conservation plan until 2020 with the name: “Emergency Action Plan until 2020 to conserve Vietnam elephants.”
Hearing the news, Tran Van Mui, Director of the Dong Nai Sanctuary in Dong Nai province, said: “The elephants are critically endangered. If the MARD’s plan is extended until 2020, I am afraid that the elephants would not be able to wait until that day.”
Therefore, the Dong Nai provincial authorities have decided to build a 30 kilometer electric fence in the area of the provincial sanctuary in order to minimize the conflicts between elephants and men. The project, estimated to cost 9 billion dong, has been implemented since February 2012 and it is expected to become operational by 2013.
According to Mui, in Dong Nai, elephants live in three areas closed to each other, the Dong Nai Sanctuary, the Cat Tien National Park and the area put under the management of the La Nga Forestry Company.
According to Tran The Lien, Director of the Natural Conservation Department under MARD, Nghe An and Dak Lak provincial authorities had built up the elephant conservation plan which had been budgeted prior to 2010 (66 billion dong for Dak Lak and 14 billion dong for Nghe An).
Meanwhile, Dong Nai provincial authorities only submitted the plan to MARD for examination in late 2011. Therefore, the ministry could not find the capital sources to allocate to Dong Nai, about 35 billion dong.
However, Lien said, besides the money from the state budget, the localities still can implement the plan to rescue elephants with the money sourced from the forest afforestation project approved by the Prime Minister.
Dak Lak province was also asked to implement the plan on elephant conservation in accordance with a decision released in 2006. However, the competent agencies in Dak Lak misunderstood that this was a tourism development plan, and assigned the provincial trade and tourism department to undertake the work.
However, as the department was incapable to conserve wild animals, it has refused the plan. As the number of elephants has been decreasing alarmingly, the provincial authorities in October 2010 approved the plan on conserving Dak Lak elephants for 2010-2015.
The local authorities asked to build a hospital for elephants on the area of 2000 hectares in the Yok Don National Park. However, the plan was rejected by MARD, because it is located in the strictly protected area in the Yok Don National Park.
The Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center and local authorities are conducting a survey in the belt area of the national park, on which they are intending to build an elephant conservation center.
As such, one year after the conservation plan was approved, relevant agencies are still busy looking for suitable places to set up conservation center.
Having no money, local authorities keep sitting and waiting
The Dak Lak elephant conservation plan has been allocated 61 billion dong, which must be spent for five years. However, to date only 350 million dong has been disbursed, which is just enough to pay workers.
Huynh Trung Luan, Director of the Dak Lak Elephant Conservation Center, said that the center is still awaiting money to build two observation stations in Buon Don and Lak districts. Each station would have five workers who are in charge of collecting information about the elephants.
However, Luan has warned that if unreasonable policies are applied, it would be impossible to bring elephants to the center for conservation. Nearly all elephants are serving at tourism centers, and every elephant can bring to its owner one million dong a day.