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Vietnam, researchers in the treetops

In September 2015, researchers from the Paris Natural History Museum organized a scientific expedition in Vietnam, to the Cuc Phong National Park, which was created in 1962. This site is of particular importance for these researchers, because of its carefully conserved forest, which is home to an impressive wealth of species. With the help of arborists from the French non-profit organization EnQuête d’Arbres, they were able to explore the canopy and make an inventory of its biodiversity.

JANUARY 2016

Récolte des insectes au parc national de Cuc Phong au Vietnam re © Philippe Psaila
Two methods for collecting insects: Pham Hong Thai uses an aerial insect net, while Eric Guilbert taps the foliage so the insects fall into a canvas beating net.

  • Project partner: EnQuête d'Arbres
  • Country: Vietnam, Asia
  • Project type: Preservation of the environment
  • Budget: €5,000 in 2015

The aim of the expedition was to collect samples to measure the wealth of flora and fauna, from the forest floor to its canopy. The idea was not to make a full inventory, but to gather samples that will provide new information and a better understanding of the origin of these species and the manner in which they have colonized very remote areas.

Two EnQuête d'Arbres arborists accompanied the scientists from the Paris Natural History Museum. Their mission was to train the Vietnamese and French researchers in the techniques required to access the canopy. They also tested new methods of capturing insects or taking photographs of reptiles, which live in the canopy.

For entomologist Adeline Soulier Perkinsthis, this field mission has established kinship relationships between species. All the samples taken were deposited in collections in Vietnam and France. These samples are currently being analyzed. The laboratory study should allow scientists to test different scenarios, which may explain how insects have colonized our planet.

Laurent Pierron récolte des orchidées et un rameau de Ficus, ©psaila
Directed by a botanist, arborist Laurent Pierron harvests a Ficus branch and orchids.


Paparazzi in tall trees

Ivan Ineich is a specialist in the study of reptiles. His role in the expedition was to observe reptiles in situ. For the first time, automatically activated heat-sensitive cameras, which react to movement, were set up with the help of the arborists. Setting these up in the canopy proved to be challenging. However, the results have been worth the effort: an unidentified snake has been captured on film. It could belong to a species living 20 meters above the forest floor, which has never been described before.

Serpent du parc national de Cuc Phong au Vietnam, ©PsailaRécolte d'insectes dans le parc national de Cuc Phong au Vietnam, ©EnQuête d'Arbres
Araignée et serpent du parc national de Cuc Phong au Vietnam, ©Psaila


For ornithologists, laying a large net (3m x 12m) on the ground is the usual way to catch birds and bats. Positioning these almost invisible nets in the canopy is more complex due to the intertwining branches and vegetation where they can become snagged or knotted. The arborists assisted the scientists by creating a rope system, which allowed them to lower the net from ground level. This ingenious solution has made it possible to find new ways of studying species that live or hunt at the top of these tall trees.

Cissa hypoleuca (famille des pies) du parc national de Cuc Phong au Vietnam, ©Psaila
Jérome Fuchs caught a Cissa hypoleuca (a species of magpie) in his net.

During this expedition, the arborists observed that the scientists quickly learnt to use the equipment so that they could climb and move around comfortably in the trees. However, when they reached their work area, they were so absorbed in what they were doing, that they tended to forget the risks of working at height. The arborists had to be particularly vigilant to ensure the scientists’ safety.

This expedition shows how scientists and arborists can work together successfully. Modern tree climbing techniques offer flexible and effective solutions and enable scientists to access new areas of research.

Jérémie Thomas, arborist and founder of EnQuête d'Arbres says:

Jérémie Thomas, arboriste-grimpeur fondateur d'EnQuête d'Arbres, ©EnQuête d’Arbres"The appeal and the challenge of this expedition to Vietnam was the variety of research fields (bats, reptiles, birds, plants, insects) and the difference in the climbing skills of the scientists. Some of them had never climbed before, while others frequently climbed in the course of their work. We had to improvise to find solutions, understand the protocol and objectives of the researchers so we could find the most effective possible technical solutions. For me personally, working so closely with these researchers has been a very enriching experience."

Uploaded in January 2016


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