Land and Resources, Plant and Animal Life
Many plant and animal species thrive in Vietnam's warm, rainy climate. Mountain forests are typically dense, consisting of a wide variety of evergreens and rain forest vegetation. Upland farmers periodically clear lands for cultivation, which causes some deforestation, although this is not nearly as serious a problem as in other areas of Southeast Asia. During the Vietnam War (1959-1975) heavy bombing cleared some areas of foliage, but plant life in these areas has gradually begun to recover. In the country's warmest zones, farmers have widely planted the hillsides and plateau regions with cash crops such as coffee, tea, and rubber. Most lowland areas and some upland valleys are planted with wet rice, although other useful crops include bananas, coconuts, papaya, and bamboo. Dense mangrove swamps cover the lowland areas along the southern coast of the Mekong Delta and on the Ca Mau peninsula.
Vietnam's forests are inhabited by many large mammals, including elephants, deer, bears, tigers, and leopards. Smaller animals, such as monkeys, hares, squirrels, and otters, are also found in considerable numbers throughout the country. In recent years, scientists have identified several previously unknown species of animal life in the Truong Son, including the endangered sao la, a cattlelike animal. Many species of birds and reptiles, including crocodiles, snakes, and lizards, also thrive in Vietnam.