Cuc Phuong National Park, which was established in 1962, is renowned both within Viet Nam and abroad for its stunning scenery, its high number of rare and endemic species – particularly butterflies – and its cultural significance. A destination easily accessible from the capital city of Hanoi, in recent years it has been drawing in an ever-increasing number of visitors from the country’s burgeoning tourism industry.

In spite of the park’s rising popularity, however, until the beginning of this year its nature museum faced significant challenges. Underfunded and understaffed, the museum in Cuc Phuong struggled to properly preserve and display its many valuable biological specimens in a degraded building without adequate ventilation or lighting, and its outdated exhibits often lacked any information or guidance for visitors. It was not even truly open to the public, only unbolting its doors for private groups visiting for study or professional research.

With help from the Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) team at UNDP Viet Nam and a government grant of 5.2 billion VND ($225,000 USD), the staff of this once-rundown nature museum in Viet Nam’s oldest national park are now celebrating the end of the first of three years of renovations to transform their institution into a must-see stop for tourists eager to learn more about Cuc Phuong’s countless natural treasures, as well as the traditional teachings and cultural practices of the local Muong ethnic community.

A refreshed and unified museum design will modernize and open up the building while gradually introducing services such as awareness and educational campaigns, a gift shop, photography contests, and support for biodiversity and conservation research projects, all made possible by the ongoing revenue generated through its new visitor fees. It is estimated that once the museum is fully open and operational, it will generate an average yearly revenue of 1.2 billion VND ($51,000 USD), enough to fully cover its own costs as well as provide funding for key activities such as conservation work, research, and public information campaigns.

The sleek new logo now in pride of place on the museum’s façade is a nod to the hundreds of butterfly species the park hosts – some of which are unique to Cuc Phuong – as well as to a remarkable local phenomenon in late spring when clouds of thousands upon thousands of white butterflies congregate there over the span of one to two weeks.

The refurbishments, which will be completed in 2021, are part of a larger initiative by BIOFIN Viet Nam to introduce a system of entrance fees for Viet Nam’s nature museums, providing the country’s national parks with an additional source of income for biodiversity conservation that taps into rising levels of tourism.

“With this new generation of revenue, it is anticipated that Viet Nam’s nature museums will become better able to both support their own maintenance costs and more effectively perform their vital roles as hubs for public learning and awareness about the importance of nature conservation and Viet Nam’s vibrant, fragile biodiversity,” said Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam.

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