Location and Values: Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park covers a substantial area of forested mountains along the border with Laos in central Vietnam. Its underlying geology is complex, and includes substantial areas of limestone where some of the world’s largest caves are found. There are some 300 known caves, including Son Doong (‘Mountain River Cave’) which is thought to be the world’s largest cave passage. Approximately 200 km of underground passages had been surveyed and mapped by early 2017 (including 57 new caves discovered in 2016 alone), and further exploration is likely to reveal many more. It is also an area of great biodiversity value, with over 2,700 vascular plant species and 800 vertebrates recorded. These include several large mammals only discovered for science in the 1990s, such as the critically endangered Saola. The fauna includes many species of endemic cave animals, such as blind white fish, and no fewer than four threatened primate taxa that are endemic to the small Annamite mountains region, namely the Hatinh langur, black Hatinh langur, red-shanked douc langur and white-cheeked gibbon.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2014) the conservation status of this site is ‘good with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that ‘while the very core of the site’s Outstanding Universal Value – the karst landscape and inherent examples of Earth’s history – is secure from degradation on a scale which would diminish this value, there is a trend for economic opportunity to overshadow the protection of the karst values represented by the caves. The existing show caves require remedial works to repair what damage can be repaired and more importantly they need infrastructure and policy development to minimize ongoing damage. The opening of additional caves in the buffer zone without adequate planning and development controls and proposals to open wild caves in the Strictly Protected Zone for tourism is particularly concerning. Furthermore, it is of concern that a clear benefit-sharing for local communities is not in place.’
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description