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DONG NAI (VNS)— Illegal poaching and shrinking habitat are forcing endangered Gaurs to encroach on farmland in southern Dong Nai Province, causing conflict with local farmers.
A recent survey of the Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve showed that the reduction of natural forest by over a third in seven years had reduced food for the gaurs and driven them out on to farmland .
The area of natural forest in southern Binh Phuoc Province’s Dong Phu District, which is home to the gaurs near the reserve, reduced from 5,000 hectares to 3,000 hectares between 2005 and 2012, said Tran Van Mui, director of the reserve.
Mui said around 130 male, female and baby gaurs currently live together as herds in the reserve.
The area of the natural forest was converted into land for growing fruit trees, he said.
Gaurs have recently been discovered destroying local fields in search of food and attacking local farmers, he added.
Conservationists worry that diseases spreading from domesticated cows to gaurs are also impacting the population of gaurs. According to the survey, local farmers graze 100 domesticated cows in areas where gaurs live.
The management board of the reserve has established a team to deal with cases where gaurs attack local farmers.
The team will instruct local people how to react on seeing the gaurs to avoid harming them and how to protect their crop.
The reserve’s board has submitted a plan to the Binh Phuoc Province People’s Committee to create a bigger habitat for the gaurs.
It also asked the committee to evacuate the gaurs to the core area of the reserve for better conservation.
The reserve has been building a 30-km electric fence to minimise conflict between gaurs and local people in Vinh Cuu District.
Besides, more stations of the reserve are also set up to watch and protect the gaurs. Disseminations of information about the risks of spreading diseases when grazing domesticated cows near gaurs’ habitat had been distributed to local farmers, Mui said.
Mui also rejected an idea from local farmers to cross-breed domesticated cows with gaurs, because he said that it would affect efforts to conserve the gaurs’ gene source.
Under the Viet Nam Data Red Book, the gaur is a big animal, measuring 2.5-3m long, 1.3-1.8m tall and weighing 900-1,000kg.
The gaur is named as an endangered species in both the Viet Nam Data Red Book and International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.
According to IUCN, the global population of gaurs is estimated to be between 13,000-30,000 animals.
In Viet Nam, gaurs are believed to live in forests in the north-west region, central highlands and south-east region. — VNS