Many different types of wild animals live in Vietnam, due to the high biodiversity that the country has. From a stretch of river in the south, dense jungle in central Vietnam to high mountains in the north. Unfortunately, many animals in Vietnam are on the endangered list due to habitat loss, illegal logging and hunting. But there are more than 30 national parks and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves where animals, plates and trees are protected.
Best place to spot wild animals in Vietnam
The IUCN Red List, The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, is an international organization that monitors the population size and habitat of animals and plants to identify threats with the aim of protecting biodiversity. Many of these animals listed as protected species can also be found in Vietnam. Due to illegal wildlife trade, deforestation and hunting, the habitat of the wild animals in Vietnam has decreased drastically and with it the numbers. The best chance to encounter wildlife is therefore a visit to one of the protected national parks in Vietnam.
These protected areas are scattered throughout the country, you will find them in the south, central and north. Central Vietnam has the most dense forests and jungle, so this is where you have the best chance of encountering wildlife in Vietnam. The south you will find a large flat river delta, which is a paradise for birds. In the north you will find many high mountains, where a number of very rare animals hide.
Below is a list of some common and very rare wild animals in Vietnam.
Perhaps the most impressive wild animal in Vietnam is the Asian Elephant, also the biggest primate on the Asian continent. Unfortunately, elephants in Vietnam are almost extinct and finding a wild elephant is pretty much impossible. Fortunately, in Yok Don National Park, elephants have been released back into the wild, which were formerly used to carry tourists or used in the logging industry to move tree trunks. These elephants do roam freely in the national park together with their mahout, which ensures that the animal remains protected and does not leave the park.
There are quite a few different types of monkeys in Vietnam, so that’s why they are summarized in this list. The protected Langur is one of the most special monkeys in the country, mainly found in the forests of central Vietnam. The Snub-Nosed Monkey is even rarer, mainly found in mountain forest the north of the country.
3. Sun Bear
The sun bear used to live in large numbers in central Vietnam. Now they have hardly ever been spotted in the wild again. In Bidoup national park, near Dalat, another one was spotted in 2020 with wildlife cameras. Unfortunately, this bear also had signs of wounds showing that it likely came into contact with poachers. Stropeij unfortunately plays a leading role in the disappearance of biodiversity. In Cat Tien National Park is a Bear Rescue Center, where bears that have been poached or held in cages by private individuals can now rehabilitate.
The saola is one of the world’s rarest mammals. The animal can best be compared to an antelope. This animal is only found in Vietnam and Laos, at altitudes between 400 and 1200 meters. The population is estimated at 70 to 700 in Laos and about a hundred in Vietnam. Pu Mat National Park, near Vinh and on the border with Laos, was the first place where the Saola was discovered. The animal has a high risk of extinction mainly due to poaching. Because the animal is nowhere to be found in a zoo in the world, it cannot be bred either. Saolas caught to keep in a zoo for breeding all died.
The gaur is an Asian cattle species and related to the common water buffalo. These rare animals can be found in Cat Tien National Park, which currently has about 110 individual gaurs. They are huge animals, with the bulls weighing up to 1000 kilos and over 2 meters high.
Tigers used to be in Vietnam, but unfortunately the last time one was spotted by a camera trap was in 1997. The chance that there are still tigers living in Vietnam today is almost impossible. If they are still around, the largest one is in the Chu Mom Ray National Park in Kon Tum. This huge national park borders the Virachey National Park in Cambodia.
The tigers in Vietnam have disappeared mainly due to habitat loss and poaching. Many Vietnamese believe that tigers contain certain substances that can be used in medicines.
Tropical Vietnam with beautiful beaches and jungle is also the habitat of reptiles, such as the snake. There are around 200 different species of snakes in Vietnam, a quarter of which are venomous. Most of these snakes live in nature areas, but you can even encounter them in parks in the city. Usually these are the harmless golden tree snake or also called the flying snake. Snakes are also eaten in Vietnam as it is believed that men can increase their strength and masculinity. You also have Vietnamese snake wine.
Vietnam is a true birdwatcher’s paradise. Many types of birds can be found here, with many different colors, sizes and birds that look unique. The best areas for birding in Vietnam are Dalat, Cat Tien National Park, the Mekong Delta and Ninh Binh.
9. Flying Squirrel
The large flying squirrel is a mammal of the squirrel family. They live in the north of Vietnam and are mainly found in Cao Bang. The reason they are called flying squirrels is because you can see them flying through the forest. When they jump they spread their arms and legs where flaps of skin can fold out neatly.
10. Slow loris
This cute little creature has wide eyes and crawls at a slow pace, hunting for fruit, insects, nectar and sap at night. If you want to spot the slow loris in the wild, you should search at night in the dense tropical rain forest or bamboo forest. The slow slow loris is mainly found in Vietnam and Laos. These special nocturnal creatures are endangered because they are caught and sold for traditional medicine, entertainment for tourists or even as pets. Many trees are also cut in the forest where they live. They can be found in forests all over Vietnam, except in the Mekong Delta.
The pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world and therefore also on the IUCN Red List listed as Critically Endangered. There are 8 different species, 2 of which live in Vietnam, the Sunda Pangolin and the Chinese Pangolin. The Sunda Pangolin is found in forests in central and southern Vietnam and the Chinese Pangolin is found in northern Vietnam. They are best spotted at night when they are actively foraging for food, especially ants. It is the only mammal in the world that is covered in scales and can curl up into a ball to protect itself from predators.