Yok Don National Park – Dak Lak

Yok Don National Park is located in Buon Don District, Dak Lak Province. It is proud of its bio-diversity, which attract both visitors and scientists.

Yok Don National Park was established on 20 October 1991 . The aim was long-term protection of an area of 58,200 hectares, 92% of which is covered with dry deciduous forest, making it the only national park in Vietnam conserving this particular forest type.

Subsequent scientific research proposed the expansion of the park to the north to include further areas of biological importance. As a consequence on 18 March 2002 the boundary was redefined to include a total of 115,545 hectares, promoting Yok Don to Viet Nam’s largest national park.

The national park derives it name from Yok Don Mountain, which in turn originates from the legends of the different ethnic groups that inhabit the area. Yok Don Mountain is 482 m high and rises above a flat plain that is approximately 200 metres above mean sea level. The mountain forms a well defined ridge 15 km long and 2 km wide.

Habitat diversity

Differences in rock type, drainage and soil conditions from the surrounding plain lead Yok Don mountain to be covered in thick evergreen forest distinct from the deciduous forests at the base. This contrast of habitat types has lead Yok Don to be classified as one of seven internationally important centres of plant diversity in Viet Nam.

The contrast between the evergreen and deciduous forest is particularly important for the wildlife that inhabits the park. Seasonal fluctuations in the availability of food and suitable habitat leads to seasonal movements of wildlife between the evergreen and dry deciduous forests, with most of the large and mobile species restricted to the evergreen forests during the long dry season, which starts in November and extends until May or June.

Fauna diversity

Yok Don National Park is an important site for the conservation of large mammals, notably the Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), Gaur (Bos gaurus), Banteng (B. javanicus) and Tiger (Panthera tigris). However, populations of all four species are in decline. Other mammal species of conservation concern in Yok Don include Silvered Leaf Monkey (Semnopithecus cristatus), Black-shanked Douc Langur, Dhole (Cuon alpinus) and Golden Jackal (Canis aureus). Some sources list the globally critically endangered Kouprey (Bos sauveli) as occurring at Yok Don National Park. However, a lack of recent records puts this is in serious doubt.

The park also supports, several several globally threatened and near-threatened bird species, including White-winged Wood Duck, Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus), White-rumped Falcon (Polihierax insignis) and Rufous-winged Buzzard (Butastur liventer). Significantly, Yok Don National Park is one of the few established protected areas in Viet Nam to support the globally threatened Green Peafowl (Pavo muticus). Biodiversity surveys inside the park provided the first sighting of the Mekong Wagtail in November 2002 and the rediscovery of the Giant Ibis early in 2003, the first report of this highly endangered species in Viet Nam since 1931.

The continuation of the Yok Don forest into the Modulkiri area of Cambodia provides an extensive range for large mammals, and the opportunity for large migrations of wild cattle and elephants particularly during the winter months when water sources dry up.

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