Ta Yen Tu
At last the long awaited day had arrived where we were to travel to the Tay Yen Tu nature reserve to search for the crocodile lizard, the only population in Vietnam is found in the reserve. We met up with a couple of Vietnamese herpetologists who would show us the sites. We started of by looking round an amphibian breeding centre in Hanoi where they breed many species of unusual frogs and release them back into the wild, it was an interesting morning and we got to see a lot of what they do at the centre.
After lunch we began the Journey to Tay Yen Tu. After a few hours we turned off the road onto a really bumpy dirt track and drove through picturesque villages nestled in themountain valleys.
It was great being in the mountains again and in forest. We crossed really old bridges and eventually arrived at the small town of Bac Giang. We quickly left our stuff in the room and drove to the field site. It was surreal, right at the edge of the reserve was a huge power station, thebiggest I have ever seen and massive lories trundled by all the time, the station even had its own track along which wagons filled with coal were shunted along. About 1km from the power station we began our walk up into the forest.
It really was beautiful and quite cold (relative to what we have been used to) and the forest was far more like the kind we get back home, complete with bramble like plants. We were to climb the mountain up a stream bed to seearch for the crocodile lizards and other repltiels and amphibians (Of course).
Huge granite boulders littered our path and for two hours we slogged over these boulders, up waterfalls and alongside the ravines, it was quite nerve racking in places but despite several stumbles, rock falls and frayed nerves we continued, eager to see the wildlife. The first animals we encountered were some spiny frogs (so called beacuse the males of some species develop spines on their chests during the breeding season) and some other stream frogs. The spiny frogs are widely hunted for food in Vietnam so we were glad to see some that had escaped the cooking pot. We picked our way through the streams examining its side for the characteristic eye shine of frogs. After an hour we saw the first of three foot long crocodile lizards. They were fantastic and looked like miniture dinosaurs, the body has numerous bony scales and the powerful tail was very crocodile like.
They sleep on the branches overhanging streams and drop off into the water at the first sign of trouble. The extremely strong tail is used for swimming and they rapidly escape from potential danger. After a couple of hours we made it out of the stream bed and had spotted many more spiny frogs and a very cute little treefrog as well as a small snake hunting for fish and tadpoles. We began the walk down the mountain, tired but happy (and more than a little bruised and battered). On the way down we saw a beautiful little owl and a bizzare leaf insect, perfectly camouflaged.
We had dinner in the towns restaraunt sitting on plastic childrens chairs and surrounded by men playing a local board game and inhaling on huge bamboo pipes, and blowing out the acrid smoke, it was an experience! Bed at last.
Our time in Ta Yen Tu was nearly over but we had one more animal to see on our list, the Vietnamese newt. We made our way to another field site and began yet another trek into the forest first walking through some stunning countryside and seeing life in the country vietnamese style up close and personal, squeeling pigs strapped to the back of mopeds and buffalo pulling huge carts of rice plants up the steep muddy tracks. We entered the forest crossed a few streams and reached our location, not a glamarous one but a muddy pond! we netted the pond to look for the salamanders and found loads of tiny baby ones with gills, we watched these tiny little monsters prowl the submerged leaf litter in search of small invertebrates on which they feed.
Our time in Tay Yen Tu had ended and once again we were bowled over by the beauty of it.
Unfortunately illegal logging is a massive problem here as well as hunting and not to mention the f*****g great power station. The crocodile lizards are found in just three streams in Vietnam (a larger population occurs in China) and the vietnamese population numbers around 30 individuals, we saw 10% of the vietnamese population! To top it all off a road is being built right through the reserve.
We made ou way back to Hanoi stopping at a restaraunt where you can shoot your own pigeon (in a huge walk in avairy) for lunch!