VietnamSurprise – U Minh Thuong National Park is located in Minh Thuan commune of Vinh Thuan district and An Minh Bac commune of An Minh district, Kien Giang province, about 365km south-west of Ho Chi Minh City. Which is located in the plain of the Mekong Delta, and the site reaches only a few meters in elevation. It is recognized as one of the three highest priority sites for wetland conservation in the Mekong Delta.
The park covered an area of 22,918 ha, harbors a diversity of flora with 256 species of vascular plants, of which some species were recorded for Melaleuca peat swamp forests for the first time such as two terrestrial orchids Spiranthes sinensis and Eulophia graminea. The natural vegetation was classified into 10 types, belonging to four main classes: Seasonally inundated grasslands, melaleuca forests, vegetation along canals and streams, and permanent swamps.
U Minh Thuong National Park is situated in an area of freshwater wetlands, comprising peat swamp forest, seasonally inundated open swamp and grassland. The soil layer is covered by a layer of peat, 1 to 3 m thick. The core zone of U Minh Thuong National Park is surrounded by a perimeter canal and dyke system, with a series of gates, which are used to manage the water level. Water is released during the rainy season but, at other times of the year, water is retained.
U Minh Thuong National Park supports one of the last significant areas of peat swamp forest remaining in Vietnam, and is recognized as one of the three highest priority sites for wetland conservation in the Mekong Delta. Scientists have classified the vegetation of the core zone into four types: forest dominated by Melaleuca cajuputi on both peat and mineral soils; seasonally inundated grasslands dominated by Phragmites vallatoria and Eleocharis dulcis; open swamps dominated by Nymphaea nouchali, Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia cucullata and Typha domingensis; and natural streams and canals. The vegetation of the buffer zone consists of seasonally inundated grassland, open swamps, Melaleuca plantations, agricultural land, fishponds and canals.
U Minh Thuong harbors a diversity of flora, including many rare and endemic species, 226 species of non-cultivated vascular plants have been recorded. Among these is the duckweed, Lemna tenure, which is rare throughout its range in South-East Asia but common at U Minh Thuong.
The forest and wetlands at U Minh Thuong support many rare and endangered animal species.
A preliminary survey conducted in March 2000 obtained evidence of the continued occurrence of the global data deficient Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana at U Minh Thuong. The survey team also found evidence of Oriental Small-clawed Otter Aonyx cinerea, Sunda Pangolin Manis javanicus and Large-spotted Civet Viverra megaspila at U Minh Thuong.
The conservation importance of this National Park is further highlighted by the high bird diversity. In a survey of wetland sites in the Mekong Delta by BirdLife International and the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, U Minh Thuong had the highest bird species richness of any of the sites visited. To date, 187 bird species have been recorded at U Minh Thuong, including nine globally threatened or near-threatened species: Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus philippensis, Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Asian Golden Weaver Ploceus hypoxanthusand Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus.
activetravelvietnam.com also supports globally significant congregations of a number of commoner waterbird species, including Purple Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax Niger, Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio, Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. For these reasons, U Minh Thuong qualifies as an Important Bird Area
The Melaleuca forest in the core zone of U Minh Thuong National Park plays an important role in maintaining the soil and water quality in the buffer zone by preventing the acidification of topsoil and surface water, filtering ground water, and storing freshwater during the dry season. In addition, at least eight species of economically valuable fish are found at U Minh Thuong. By providing these services, the U Minh Thuong wetlands make an important contribution to the livelihood security of poor households in the buffer zone.
U Minh Thuong National Park has historical values because the area was used as a base by resistance forces during the First and Second Indochina Wars. Due to the almost complete loss of natural forest in the Mekong Delta region, it is one of the few places where visitors can see the landscape as it was at the time. In addition, archaeological remains dating back to the Oc Eo civilization have been found in the area.