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Bach Ma (Bạch Mã)

Vietnamese. ‘White Horse’, i.e. the name of a 220 km² National Park in central Vietnam, between the Hai Van Pass (fig.) and the city of Hué (Huế). It is part of the Annamite Mountain Range, which forms a major geographical barrier that divides the North from the South, both climatologically and in historical context, even housing a 140 meter long tunnel (map - fig.), that in the seventies was used by the Viet Cong during the American War, known in the West as the Vietnam War. The park has several walking trails and features a number of waterfalls. Historically, the park held important species of mammals, such as the Asian Elephant (fig.), the White-cheeked Gibbon (fig.), and the Red-shanked Douc Langur (fig.), whilst it today still protects important bird species, such as the Crested Argus, the Annam Hill Partridge, also known as the Vietnam Partridge and a subspecies of the Green-legged Partridge, i.e. a bird that somewhat resembles the Mountain Bamboo-partridge (fig.) and the Chinese Francolin (fig.), and the Edwards' Pheasant (fig.), which is related to the Vietnamese Pheasant (fig.) and had been thought extinct. During the rainy season, the park's hiking trails easily get flooded, yet the rain will also bring out creatures that are otherwise rather unusual or much harder to find, such as toads, Giant Earthworms (fig.) and leeches (fig.). In 1932, the summit of Bach Ma was selected by the French to become a hill station for the colonial administration of Hué, after which villas and hotels were built to accommodate holiday makers, mostly high-ranking French VIPs seeking the cooler mountain temperatures. After heavy fighting by the Viet Minh in the early 1950s and the subsequent independence from France, the area was abandoned and the villas and hotels eventually fell into disrepair. The area was first protected as a series of forest reserves in 1937, and was declared a protected area by the government of South Vietnam in 1962. See also mah, MAP, TRAVEL PICTURES (1) and (2).