Green List

Van Long Nature Reserve
Khu bảo tồn thiên nhiên đất ngập nước Vân Long


First Listed



Why is it Green Listed?

Van Long straddles seven communes (local Government administrative units) and is in the heartland of the populated centre of north-eastern Vietnam, 85km south of the capitol, Hanoi. All the 45,000 or so people who live in these seven communes in the buffer zone of Van Long are of the Kinh ethnic Vietnamese majority.

Van Long itself covers some 3,000 hectares and comprises two major geographic features. Firstly, Van Long is a large wetland and freshwater system. Secondly, the canals, lakes and streams wend through an island-like landscape of karst limestone mountains that harbour the only viable population of the Delacour’s Langur – one of the world’s most critically endangered species of primate (with c. 240 to 250 individuals remaining, globally).

Key Achievements


  • VLNR conserves the largest remaining natural inland wetland in the Northern Plain, Vietnam.
  • Supports the world’s largest population of Delacour langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), a globally critically endangered species and also an endemic to Vietnam: a comprehensive survey in 2018 counted 176 to 184 individuals in 21 groups inside the Nature Reserve, and 31 to 38 individuals in 4 groups in the area adjacent to the reserve. That means over the last 18 years the population has nearly quadrupled (from 60-67 individuals since the establishment of VLNR) – a conservation success.

Good governance

  • Inclusive governance and well-demonstrated stakeholder inclusion and satisfaction.
  • Local authorities and communities actively engage in the conservation of the site.

Community benefits

  • Local communities benefit from participation in the ecotourism of the site.
  • Well-protected wetlands provide ideal conditions for recovering fishery stocks that important source of income and protein diary for local people.
  • Site help regulating and reserving fresh water that is important for agricultural activities around PA

Site Attributes



Nature Reserve, Ramsar site

IUCN Category
IV and V

Year Established

Marine Protected Area

Governance Type
Government-delegated management

Site Agency
Van Long Nature Reserve Management Board

Site Manager
Mai Van Quyen


EAGL Evaluation

GL Committee Submission

EAGL Chair
Nguyen Manh Ha and Nguyen Huu Dung

ASI Reviewer
Nguyen Than Linh

Site Summary

Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve was established under the Decision No. 2888/QD-UB, dated 18 December 2001, of Ninh Binh Provincial People’s Committee. The Nature Reserve encompass seven communes of Gia Hung, Lien Son, Gia Hoa, Gia Van, Gia Lap, Gia Thanh, Gia Tan of Gia Vien district, Ninh Binh province. The area of Van Long Wetland Nature Reserve is 2,734 ha. Of which forest on limestone account for 75%, wetland accounts for 25%.

Van Long conserves the largest natural inland wetland in the Northern Plain and also very famous for the largest population Delacour langur Trachypithecus delacouri in the world. Delacour langur is a globally threatened and endemic species of Vietnam. Van Long is now supporting more than 200 individuals or two thirds of global population, and the largest viable group. It is critical for the species’ survival.

In addition to the high biodiversity values, Van Long also support a number of cultural and historical relics, especially those relating to uprising of Dinh Tien Hoang King against China in the 10th century.

Wetlands and forests in Van Long play an important role for local communities as a source of critical ecosystem services for lives including both basics for their livelihoods as well as regulating local climate and water for domestic uses and productions.

Van Long was also recognized as a Ramsar Site on 10 February 2017 (the 9th Ramsar Site of Vietnam and 2360 of the world).

Delacour’s Langur Population: The limestone system in Van Long provides habitats for a world’s largest population of Delacour’s Langur Trachypithecus delacouri, one of world’s most endangered primate species, globally critical endangered and Vietnam’s endemic species.
Van Long was established in response the needs of conservation of Delacour’s Langur population, which discovered in 1993 by a survey team from Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). At the time of establishment (in 2001), number of langurs recorded for the site was c. 50 individuals. The threshold for success is set at maintaining a steady population and monitoring periodically for a steady increase. As the limestone terrain makes surveying difficult, presence/ absence from key accessible cliff areas is the preferred method and threshold.
Recent inventory confirmed 176 to 184 individuals in 21 groups inside the Nature Reserve, and 31 to 38 individuals in 4 groups in the area adjacent to the reserve. That means over the last 18 years the population has nearly quadrupled.
Thanks to the good protection made by PA staff and local communities, the number of langurs is gradually increased (from c.50 to c. 200 now). Given the fact that the current area of PA is rather small, a series of discussions with to adjacent provinces are ongoing to extend the area of protected habitats for langur.
Forest coverage: The PA was established also to protect best remnants of forested limestone hills in the Northern Vietnam Plain.
When established, limestone forests in Van Long were already degraded due to timber extraction and firewood collection. Moreover, thousand goats were free ranched in the site posed a high pressure on the regenerating of the forest trees and scrubs. However, with c. 15% forest coverage at 2000, Van Long support some highest limestone forest coverage in Northern Vietnam. The threshold is to halt degradation, no goats present, and demonstrate at least 20% forest cover of the limestone areas by 2025
Follow annual inventory data, forest coverage of Van Long is now c. 20% natural area of the PA or 30% of the limestone area.
Good protection introduced, local firewood demand reduced due to utilization of other fuel sources (e.g. gas), and restriction of grazing activities in the site did help facilitating natural regeneration of limestone forest. The forest coverage and quality gradually increase providing better habitats for animal species, especially langur.
Wetland area: Van Long consists of a fresh water lake and river systems that accounts for c. 25% natural area of the site. These wetlands provide important habitat for aquatic species as well as waterbirds.
Before 2001, the wetlands are open pool for all exploitation types. Local people collect aquatic vegetable, fishes and other aquatic species, as well as hunting (by gun or nest) waterbirds. Thresholds for success are based on community reports on quality and quantity of harvesting in accessible areas and the overall status of waterbirds.
No generic species monitoring data. However, interviews with local community confirm the better status of wetlands in Van Long. Number of bird using the site in winter gradually increase.
Fishery resources improved. Number of waterbirds increased.
FISHERY PRODUCTIVITY:Van Long is an important fish sanctuary, where many aquatic species use as refuge and breeding site that provide an important resource for the surrounding communities.
There are 56 fish species recorded for Van Long Nature Reserve. Most of them are of high economical value, however, yield of most valuable species seemed reducing in the time of 2000 (Vu Trung Tang et al. 2001). Thresholds for success are to increase the abundance of the majority of these species.
No accurate data, however, local communities reported the recovery of some important species such as Bangana lemassoni (DD), Blotched snakehead Channa maculate, or Lille slangehovedfisk Channa asiatica.
WATER REGULATION AND STORAGE: Van Long wetland plays an important role in maintaining hydrological regimes for rice and other crop production in surrounding areas.
VL serves as a natural reservoir that receives water from Day and Boi River in the rainy season and releases back to these rives in the dry season. It therefore plays an important role to regulate hydrological regimes in the region.
Agriculture is most dominant livelihood activity in the area, therefore, Van Long wetland plays an important role in maintaining hydrological regimes for rice and other crop production of more than 47,000 people living nearby
Interviews with local communities confirm the role PA in maintaining water regime of the region.
Inside PA, cultural values such as Hoa Lu Cave, Thung La temple, Dich Long pagoda are conserved. VLNR is also part of the spiritual tour across other nearby pagodas and historical legacies (e.g. Trang An-Bai Dinh, Tam Coc-Bich Dong etc.).
Key cultural relics of the site are well conserved. Access is managed to minimize impacts on the Reserve.
Key cultural relics of the site are well conserved.
Annually, the site receive c. 7,000 visitors. The main activities are boating and wildlife watching etc. Thresholds for success include local operator equity in access to tourism opportunities, and regulation reports on routes, numbers and behavior of visitors.
Current touring activities are managed by Tourism Cooperative. Routes and permitted activities are mutual agreed by Cooperative and PA management board. The PA also supervises this activities to ensure the compliance with PA laws and regulations.
Due to Covid 19, number of visitor sharply decrease this year. However, due to the other livelihood options, many communities are reported to be in ‘wait and see’ mode and not yet forced to find alternatives.

Conservation Summary

  • Site visit report: compiled by the EAGL members responsible. Visit took place from 12 to 13 August 2020. Summary of evaluation and recommendations shared with EAGL ahead of their full evaluation call on 07th September.
  • EAGL meeting minutes
  • EAGL consensus and vote: All member participated the meeting on 7th September 2020 are consensus on VLNR.

EAGL statement:

Van Long NR is an important PA in the special-use forest network (the only official protected area system of Vietnam), where supports high and unique biodiversity values as well critical ecosystem services for local livelihood.

Since its establishment, in last 20 years, the site has archived important conservation outcomes, for both natural and social values. The site has been governed, managed in appropriate manners to ensure the long-term integrity of its values. The site conducted extensive site and governance assessments with IUCN support to prepare their nomination.

In Vietnam’s context, the justifications and performance evidences provided by site representative against Green List indicators are acceptable and proofed by EAGL.

Reviewer statement (Nguyen Than Linh):

Although a minor finding that the site lacked to submit verifiable evidence for a PA definition against the indicator 2.1.1. Overall the site has provided meaningful evidence for all Indicators.

A site visit with stakeholder consultation (e.g. Gia Hoa Commune People’s Committee, Da Han and Vuon Thi village leaders, boatmen, Ecotourism Cooperative) has been conducted by three EAGL members and has been documented by a site visit report. The final site visit report has been shared with other EAGL members for their reading before the EAGL meeting. The EAGL meeting has remotely conducted via Zoom conference. During the meeting, the EAGL has reviewed all Indicator Verifications, came to a conclusion on the Site and has provided a summary report on COMPASS. At the end of the EAGL meeting, 7 participating EAGL members have jointly voted for Van Long to be Green List Status. There is no conflict of interest for the EAGL member participation and voting. The section “Candidate Phase EAGL Assessment” has been adequately completed by the EAGL after the meeting.

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