We’re Working to Survey and Protect a Biodiversity Hotspot in Vietnam, and You Can Help

The Bourret’s box turtle, native to Laos and the forests of central Vietnam, isn’t all that well understood. One thing that is known, however, is that it’s critically endangered, largely due to habitat loss. We’re working to help them, along with other threatened species in Vietnam, by better understanding habitats within the country. We could use your help.

From March 14 through the 24, Greater Good Charities is teaming up with Vietnamese organization Wildlife at Risk and the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources (IEBR) to survey the Dong Son-Ky Thuong Nature Reserve in Quảng Ninh, Vietnam. The goal is to build on scientific knowledge of the area, including the species that call it home and any recent ecological changes, to ultimately help with conservation.


The trip is part of Greater Good Charities’ Global Discovery Expeditions program that is dedicated to exploring, studying, and protecting key biodiversity hotspots facing imminent threat and loss by providing the initial key step in conservation – the observation and recording of living species within an ecosystem. The program began in the unique, wildlife- and plant-rich Madrean Sky Islands of the American Southwest and Mexico. This region is known for hosting more than half the birds in North America. The program expanded globally last year, though, to another biodiversity hotspot: Vietnam, which is home to more than 50,000 species of plants and animals.


At the time of this expansion, Greater Good Charities CEO Liz Baker said, “By expanding into key biodiversity areas like Vietnam, we can document the ecosystems there and make that data available to anyone who needs it. This expansion represents our commitment to studying and protecting the planet for the good of people and pets everywhere. We are laying the groundwork for conservation efforts now and into the future and look forward to amplifying the good in other biodiversity hotspots around the world.”


The first trip to Vietnam centered on the Thua Thien Hue province’s Sao La Nature Reserve, situated on a northern flank of mountains contained within the Annamite Mountain chain. Four Greater Good Charities scientists teamed up with eight Vietnamese scientists, recording dozens of mammal species, 19 different species of frogs and toads, 15 species of snakes and lizards, and the Bourret’s box turtle, listed on IUCN’s Red List as critically endangered. The species is increasingly falling victim to habitat loss, the pet trade, and use in food and medicine.

For the upcoming trip to the Dong Son-Ky Thuong Nature Reserve, there will again be a team of Vietnamese and American scientists, specializing in malacology (or snails), herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians), and mammalogy. Photographers will also be on hand to help document the species, and students preparing for their own careers in biology will join in to get field experience.

The trip will build on records already produced by the Global Discovery Expeditions program, including more than 61,000 from Madrean Sky Islands trips. Those are on a database available for view by the public, allowing scientists to use them to help inform conservation strategies.


Among the other Vietnamese species we hope to support through our partnership with Wildlife at Risk is the vulnerable Asian small-clawed otter, the world’s smallest species of otter. They’re smart, very vocal, live in large family groups, and are unfortunately facing threats including habitat destruction and illegal trade. That’s where this work, and your help, come in.

Casey Paholski, Senior Program Manager of Pet & Planet Programs at Greater Good Charities, says, “The organization that Greater Good Charities has helped to support with pangolin rehabilitation [Wildlife at Risk] has been working with IEBR (Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources) for many years. IEBR has been preforming these surveys all over the country. This location was selected because it had not been surveyed by the group before. A scientist from IEBR is currently working on a Bats of Vietnam book and he has not sampled this area yet…

“The goal along with any of these other trips is just to observe and document. All the data we collect just adds to the baseline of biodata for an area.”

If you’d like to contribute to this survey work, which we hope will improve the survival chances of species like the Asian small-clawed otter and the Bourret’s box turtle, click below!

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