Thuan Vo – Tuan Tran
With Vietnam’s territory spanning multiple latitudes, its regions vary greatly in terms of biodiversity. Based on each region’s features, the country is divided into nine agro-ecological zones, the most prominent of which is the Central Highland region, a large hub of biodiversity that is home to many endemic species.
Yok Don National Park in the dry season
The ecosystems of the Central Highlands vary from evergreen and semi-evergreen broadleaf forests to grasslands, wetlands, dipterocarp, and coniferous forests, the last two existing over large areas solely within this region. Among the five national parks here, Yok Don National Park of both Dak Nong and Dak Lak provinces is home to the largest dipterocarp forest habitat in Vietnam. The floras and faunas here are plentiful, diverse, and well-adapted to the two-season climate.
From around April to October, the rainy season gives rise to greener trees, budding fruit and flowers, verdant grasslands, and overflowing ponds and lakes where aquatic creatures from the Serepok River swarm to lay eggs and nurture their young. This time of year is lucrative for birds and mammals seeking food. Storks, herons, kingfishers, and eagles flock to catch fish in the small bodies of water scattered throughout the forests Some predatory birds also stalk these areas for smaller birds and animals there to drink or catch fish.
Rufous Treepie

From October onwards, when the heavy rains gradually subside, plants begin to harbor new seeds, and ponds slowly drain to reveal an abundance of food for birds and animals for a short time, until the lagoons run completely dry in December.

This is also the mating and breeding season for birds in Yok Don. If you wish to see the birds’ most fascinating behaviors, you should visit from October onwards, when the birds are at their busiest.
Around December, at the peak of the dry season, the trees shed their leaves to avoid dehydration as they enter hibernation, making for marvelous sceneries at sunset and sunrise. Wildlife bird photographers now enjoy clean backgrounds and a much better chance of spotting the birds since they have less places to hide.

A dipterocarp ecosystem and the dry-rainy season alternations make the majority of woody plants unable to adapt, leaving only a few typical species of Dipterocarpaceae. These species usually flourish during the rainy season to absorb nutrients, then lose their leaves in the dry season to conserve water.

Great Slaty Woodpecker

Every year, millions of trees here perish, unable to cope with the harsh climates. This ecological transition inadvertently creates many dead trees and hollow trunks, which, coupled with the naturally rough barks of Dipterocarpaceae, make for ideal breeding grounds for common insects, ants, and termites. They effectively serve as a rich and sustainable food source for woodpeckers during both seasons. Of the 28 recorded woodpecker subspecies in Vietnam, up to 20 were found here.

Many of these subspecies have only a limited number of individuals left and are not found anywhere else in Vietnam.

Some woodpecker subspecies exclusive to dipterocarp forests are the rufous-bellied woodpecker, the greater yellownape, the streak-throated woodpecker, the black-headed woodpecker, the white-bellied woodpecker, and the great slaty woodpecker, which is considered vulnerable and in pressing need of conservation.