by Stephen Nash
Despite long and tragic wars with the Japanese, the French, the Chinese and the United States during the last century, Vietnam is a treasure house. It is one of the world’s hot spots of biological diversity, according to the science research. There are 30 national parks in a country a bit larger than New Mexico, and about as many kinds of animals as in those pre-eminent safari destinations, Kenya and Tanzania.
In fact, hundreds of new-to-science species of plants and animals have been discovered in Vietnam during the last three decades, and more are recorded each year. The antelope-like saola, for example. Its gentle, streaked face looks as if it has just escaped from a jungle-dream painting by Henri Rousseau. Heralded as “the last unicorn” for its rarity, the saola is the largest land-dwelling animal discovered anywhere since 1937. A small herd of long-lost rhinos, a barking deer and a striped rabbit have also turned up. So has a giant, 21-inch-long walking-stick insect, and many kinds of birds — laughing thrushes! — fish, snakes and frogs hitherto unknown or thought to be extinct.
Vietnam’s forests shelter two dozen species of primates — gibbons, macaques, lorises and langurs, often in colors that make the human tribe look banal by contrast…
Image courtesy of The New York Times/David Rama Terrazas Morales