A trip to Hanoi, Vietnam is much more than just exploring the bustling city life, tantalizing cuisine, and rich history. The city and its surroundings also provide a unique opportunity to explore the diverse and rich biodiversity of the country.
While you are in Hanoi, a trip to Cuc Phuong National Park could be a great way to encounter Vietnam’s biodiversity firsthand. As the country’s largest nature reserve, it hosts a wide array of flora and fauna, including some endangered species like the Delacour’s langur, the clouded leopard, and the Owston’s palm civet. Here, you can explore the park on foot or by bicycle, and there are also night safari options where you can see many nocturnal animals in their natural habitat.
For bird enthusiasts, visiting the Xuan Thuy National Park, which is a few hours away from Hanoi, can be a fantastic experience. It is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a significant spot on the migration path of many bird species.
In the heart of Hanoi itself is the Thu Le Zoo, a part of Thu Le Park. It houses a variety of animals including tigers, elephants, monkeys, and different types of birds, offering an accessible glimpse into Vietnam’s wildlife.
Additionally, visiting the Hanoi Botanical Gardens can provide insights into the country’s rich plant biodiversity. It’s a tranquil spot perfect for a leisurely stroll amidst lush greenery.
Visiting the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) and the Turtle Conservation Center in Cuc Phuong National Park can also be enlightening. These centers are dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, breeding, research, and conservation of Vietnam’s endangered and critically endangered primate and turtle species.
Through these visits, tourists can help raise awareness about the rich biodiversity of Vietnam and the challenges it faces. They also support local conservation efforts as the entrance fees and donations often contribute directly to preservation initiatives.
It’s important to remember that while exploring these natural areas and wildlife centers, one should respect the environment and wildlife, follow the guidance of the park rangers and conservationists, and avoid practices that could harm the local ecosystem and its inhabitants.
10 Awesome Wildlife in Hanoi
Discover the fascinating wildlife species of Hanoi that you absolutely shouldn’t miss on your next trip to Vietnam. Have you had the pleasure of spotting any of these magnificent creatures yet?
1. Water Buffalo
Water buffalo are indeed a part of Vietnam’s rural landscapes and are particularly important in the country’s agricultural practices, being often referred to as the “tractors of the East”.
Water buffalo, known locally as “trâu”, have been used for centuries in Vietnam to plough rice fields, haul heavy loads, and provide milk and meat. They are powerful, resilient creatures that are well-adapted to the hot, humid conditions of Vietnam. They can easily work in the flooded conditions of the paddy fields due to their large hooves and strong bodies.
Although they aren’t typically thought of as “wildlife” in the same sense as tigers or langurs, as they are often domesticated, there are still wild water buffalo to be found in Vietnam. These wild herds live in the more remote, forested regions of the country and are unfortunately endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.
If you are interested in seeing water buffalo up close, you could consider taking a trip to the countryside or rice terraces outside of Hanoi. Here, you’ll see these magnificent creatures as they play a pivotal role in the local way of life. Additionally, visiting eco-farms or rural community tourism projects can provide a great opportunity to see water buffalo and understand their importance to local agriculture and rural livelihoods.
2. Pygmy Slow Loris
The Pygmy Slow Loris is a small, nocturnal primate native to Vietnam, including areas around Hanoi, as well as parts of Laos, China, and Cambodia. They live in a variety of forest habitats, including evergreen, semi-evergreen, and secondary forests.
Pygmy Slow Lorises are known for their adorable appearance, with round faces, big eyes, and soft fur. Despite being undeniably cute, they lead a relatively secretive lifestyle due to their nocturnal habits. They are slow-moving creatures and spend most of their lives in trees.
Interestingly, the Pygmy Slow Loris is one of the only venomous mammals in the world. They have a gland on the inside of their elbows that can secrete a toxin. When threatened, the loris can take this toxin into its mouth and deliver a venomous bite.
Sadly, Pygmy Slow Lorises are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade. They are often captured and sold as pets, a practice that is not only illegal but also harmful to their populations and well-being.
While it may be difficult to spot one in the wild due to their nocturnal habits and declining populations, some conservation centers and sanctuaries in Vietnam are working to protect and rehabilitate this unique species. One such place is the Endangered Primate Rescue Center (EPRC) in Cuc Phuong National Park, not too far from Hanoi. The EPRC houses and rehabilitates several endangered primate species, potentially including the Pygmy Slow Loris.
It’s essential, though, to remember that these creatures, while fascinating, are best appreciated in the wild or in ethical, conservation-focused environments. They are not suited to being pets. Their needs cannot be adequately met in a household setting, and the pet trade is a significant threat to their survival.
3. Honey Bears
“Honey bear” is a common name often used to refer to Sun Bears (Helarctos malayanus). They are named so because of their fondness for honey and the ability to ferociously raid beehives. They’re also recognized for their distinctive golden or white patch on their chests, which contrasts with their otherwise dark fur.
Sun bears are the smallest among the bear species, and they are found in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. They are largely arboreal and have strong and long claws to climb trees. Their diet is omnivorous, and it includes insects, small vertebrates, fruit, and of course, honey.
In Vietnam, sun bears are unfortunately classified as vulnerable, and their population has been declining due to loss of habitat from deforestation and the illegal wildlife trade. Bear bile farming, where bears are kept in captivity and their bile is extracted for use in traditional medicine, is a major issue in Vietnam.
Endeavors are being made to conserve this species. Organizations such as the Four Paws Viet and Animals Asia Foundation run bear sanctuaries in Vietnam, rescuing and providing care for bears that have been rescued from bile farms or the illegal pet trade.
While visiting these sanctuaries, it is critical to choose ethical establishments focused on rehabilitation and care, rather than those that encourage harmful and unnatural behaviors in animals for the sake of tourism. Always opt for sanctuaries that prioritize the well-being and conservation of the animals. As of my knowledge cut-off in September 2021, Animals Asia is an organization with a strong reputation for ethical practices and conservation efforts. They run the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, located about 100km from Hanoi, which might be worth a visit if you’re interested in learning more about sun bears and efforts to protect them.
4. Snub-nosed Monkeys
In Vietnam, there are several species of snub-nosed monkeys, which are collectively referred to as “snub-nosed langurs”. These include the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), and the Delacour’s Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), both of which are found in areas of Northern Vietnam, including regions not far from Hanoi.
Snub-nosed monkeys are easily recognized by their upturned nostrils and striking facial expressions. They are primarily arboreal and inhabit limestone forests.
The Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey is critically endangered and is considered one of the world’s rarest primate species. It was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in the 1990s. Similarly, the Delacour’s Langur is also critically endangered due to hunting and habitat loss from limestone quarrying.
If you are interested in seeing these unique creatures, you might consider visiting the Endangered Primate Rescue Center in Cuc Phuong National Park, which is about 120km from Hanoi. This center has been instrumental in the conservation of endangered primate species in Vietnam and provides an opportunity for visitors to learn more about these unique animals and the efforts being made to save them.
Bear in mind, though, that these species are endangered, so interactions are typically limited to ensure the well-being of the animals. However, by visiting a center like the EPRC, you are supporting conservation efforts that will hopefully allow these incredible primates to survive and thrive in their natural habitats.
It’s worth noting that while spotting these primates in the wild might be thrilling, it’s essential to prioritize their wellbeing and the preservation of their habitats over any touristic endeavor. Always opt for wildlife watching or tours that are respectful to the animals and their environments.
5. Water Monitor Lizard
The water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator) is a large species of monitor lizard native to South and Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. They are among the largest lizards in the world and can grow up to 2 to 3 meters in length.
As their name suggests, water monitor lizards are highly associated with water. They are excellent swimmers and can be found in a variety of aquatic environments, including rivers, swamps, and wetlands. They are also very versatile, as they can climb trees and are also comfortable in urban and suburban environments.
In terms of diet, water monitor lizards are carnivorous and will eat a wide range of food, including fish, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and carrion. They have even been known to eat smaller members of their own species.
Water monitor lizards are quite common and have a healthy population across their range, so it’s possible you might encounter one in the wild if you are near a suitable habitat in the Hanoi region. They are more common in rural areas, but they have been known to enter urban areas, especially if they are close to water bodies.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that while they are generally not aggressive towards humans, they are wild animals and should be treated with respect. If you encounter one, maintain a safe distance and do not attempt to feed or touch it.
Also, while they are not endangered, they are protected under Vietnamese law, so it is illegal to harm them or capture them without a permit. This is part of Vietnam’s commitment to protect its rich biodiversity and ensure that future generations can also enjoy its unique wildlife.
6. Mossy Frogs
The Mossy Frog, or Theloderma corticale, is a fascinating species of frog native to northern Vietnam, including regions near Hanoi. As their name suggests, mossy frogs have a unique, moss-like skin that helps them blend in with their environment, making them an interesting species for herpetology enthusiasts.
Mossy frogs are typically found in the rainforests and mountains of Vietnam, where they reside in crevices and holes near streams or water bodies. They are an arboreal species, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. Their excellent camouflage not only helps them hide from predators but also allows them to ambush prey, which primarily consists of various insects.
These frogs are nocturnal and are most active during the night. They’re known for their interesting reproductive strategy: they lay their eggs on land, and when the eggs hatch, the tadpoles drop into the water below where they continue to grow and develop.
The population status of Mossy Frogs is currently unknown due to insufficient data, but they are potentially at risk due to habitat loss and degradation, especially from deforestation for agricultural purposes. Additionally, they are often collected for the pet trade, which could impact wild populations.
While it may be challenging to spot these unique creatures in the wild due to their excellent camouflage and nocturnal habits, visiting a conservation park or natural reserve might increase your chances. However, it’s essential to respect these creatures and their habitats during your visit, keeping a safe distance and not disturbing them or their environment. Ethical wildlife tourism and responsible behaviors can contribute to the conservation of these fascinating creatures and their habitats.
7. Great Hornbill
The Great Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), also known as the Great Indian Hornbill or the Great Pied Hornbill, is a large bird native to the forests of Southeast Asia, including some regions of Vietnam.
Characterized by its large size, bright yellow and black casque on its bill, and its colorful wings and tail, the Great Hornbill is indeed a sight to behold. They are often found in the canopies of dense forests and rarely come down to the ground. They have a distinctive loud call, which is often described as a loud, laughing sound.
Great Hornbills are predominantly frugivorous (fruit-eating) but they also eat small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They play a vital role in their ecosystem as seed dispersers, helping to maintain the health and diversity of their forest habitats.
Unfortunately, the Great Hornbill is currently listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to hunting and habitat loss. Their large casques have made them targets for hunting, and deforestation has resulted in significant loss of their natural habitat.
While the Great Hornbill isn’t as commonly seen around Hanoi as in the more heavily forested regions of Vietnam, it’s still possible to spot one if you’re extremely lucky or if you visit some of the larger national parks or protected areas farther afield.
A great place to potentially learn about and see hornbills, as well as other endangered birds of Vietnam, is the Cuc Phuong National Park, where a conservation project named the Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program is underway. This project focuses on the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of confiscated carnivores and pangolins throughout Vietnam, but the park itself is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Remember, when viewing wildlife such as hornbills, it’s crucial to do so responsibly, without disturbing the animals or their habitats.
Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) were once widespread throughout Vietnam, including in regions near Hanoi. However, due to poaching for ivory and habitat loss, their population has dramatically declined and the remaining wild elephants in Vietnam are now primarily found in the Yok Don National Park and the Central Highlands, which are both far south of Hanoi.
Asian elephants are smaller than their African counterparts but are still impressively large animals. They play an essential role in the ecosystems they inhabit, helping to maintain biodiversity by dispersing seeds through their dung.
In Vietnam, efforts are being made to conserve the remaining elephant population. The Vietnamese government has implemented a national action plan to conserve elephants, and there are various local and international organizations working to protect this iconic species.
One such organization is the Yok Don National Park, which runs an ethical elephant experience where tourists can observe the elephants in their natural habitat without contributing to practices that harm or exploit the animals, like elephant riding or circus-style shows. Instead, visitors can learn about the elephants and their importance to the environment.
If you’re committed to seeing elephants while in Vietnam, it’s essential to support ethical tourism practices that prioritize the wellbeing of the elephants. Remember, elephants are wild animals, and any interaction should be on their terms and respectful of their needs. It’s always better to view elephants from a distance in their natural environment rather than in exploitative tourist shows or riding camps.
Crocodiles are fascinating creatures, and Vietnam is home to the critically endangered Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis). This species can be found in freshwater habitats such as rivers, lakes, and marshlands. They are medium-sized crocodiles, growing up to about 3-4 meters long.
Siamese crocodiles feed on a variety of prey, including fish, amphibians, and small mammals. They are known to be less aggressive than some other crocodile species, but it’s important to remember that they are still wild animals and should be treated with respect.
Unfortunately, the Siamese crocodile population has seen a sharp decline due to illegal hunting for their skins and eggs, habitat loss from deforestation and dams, and hybridization with other crocodile species. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1,000 Siamese crocodiles left in the wild.
In Vietnam, crocodiles can be found in the southern parts of the country, including Cat Tien National Park, which is about a 3-hour drive north of Ho Chi Minh City, far from Hanoi. This park is one of the last refuges for this critically endangered species and is part of conservation efforts to save them.
The park has a Crocodile Lake where tourists can see these animals in their natural habitat. This is a conservation area, so guidelines need to be followed to ensure the safety of both visitors and the animals. Visitors are only allowed to view the crocodiles from a designated viewing area and disturbing the animals is strictly prohibited.
While there might be crocodiles in zoos or farms closer to Hanoi, it’s always more ethical to see animals in the wild where they are free and in their natural environment. But remember, it’s important to always follow guidelines and respect the animals and their habitats.
The Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti), a subspecies of tiger, was once found throughout Vietnam, including areas near Hanoi. However, due to rampant poaching and habitat loss, the population of tigers in the wild in Vietnam has declined significantly over the past few decades. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there may be no breeding populations of tigers left in Vietnam as of my last update in September 2021, making the tigers effectively extinct in the wild.
Historically, tigers have been hunted for their skins, bones, and other body parts, which are used in traditional medicine and for decoration. Habitat loss due to deforestation for agriculture, logging, and human settlement is another significant factor that has contributed to their decline.
There are strict laws in Vietnam against the hunting and trade of tigers, and the government has taken measures to protect the few remaining tigers. However, enforcement of these laws is a significant challenge.
Conservation organizations are also working to protect tigers and their habitats, with measures such as strengthening anti-poaching efforts, improving law enforcement, and raising awareness about the importance of tiger conservation. Additionally, there are efforts to stop the demand for tiger parts, which fuels illegal poaching and trade.
Visitors interested in tigers should avoid places that exploit these animals for profit, such as tiger farms or shows where tigers are made to perform unnatural behaviors for entertainment. Instead, consider visiting reputable wildlife sanctuaries or national parks that focus on conservation and education, and always prioritize animal welfare and respect for nature. Although the chance of spotting a tiger in the wild in Vietnam is unfortunately extremely low, these locations will offer an opportunity to learn more about these magnificent creatures and the efforts being made to protect them.