Putting the ‘N’ back into nature. Placing the ‘C’ back into conservation
For city dwellers, it’s easy to forget that this country is essentially one big jungle. Look at any land use or vegetation map of Vietnam; see all those green bits?
Despite its rapid urbanisation, we continue to live in the tropics, and living in the tropics doesn’t just mean monsoons and mosquitoes, it means that a huge diversity of animal species live here too, though many wouldn’t know it.
The Shame File
For example, some people won’t believe it if you told them that tigers exist in Vietnam. Only just, but you can still find an Indochinese tiger, if you look hard enough. Be prepared, however, because you won’t be alone; tigers are the medicinal treasure chests of Asia and hunted like nobody’s business.
Bears? This country has those as well, though the Asiatic black bear is mostly exploited in archaic farms for their bile, which is another valuable commodity in traditional Chinese medicine. Charming. So much for those bears having a good time.
Rhinos used to live here too, happily grazing and minding their own business, until the last one was shot and killed in Cat Tien National Park back in 2010. That’s five years ago now. I don’t remember anyone changing their Facebook profile pic over that.
Working for Change
Luckily, there are people who do give a damn about the critical situation Vietnam’s wildlife finds itself in, which is far from limited to tigers, bears and rhinos, but includes all of the incredible species native to the region.
Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) was established back in 2000 as the first NGO in Vietnam for the “conservation of nature and the protection of the environment”. Their mission is to foster greater understanding among the Vietnamese public about the need to protect nature and wildlife.
One of their main focuses for change is to reduce consumer demand for wildlife products, which is supported by attempts to strengthen legislation and the enforcement of better policy relevant to wildlife protection.
They know they’re up against it. Never mind the domestic market, to Vietnam’s immediate north lies a population of 1.5 billion who have been treating Vietnam’s jungle like a supermarket for the last 35 years, keeping the trade in animals well and truly worthwhile for poachers.
ENV has a Wildlife Crime Hotline for the reporting of anything that you might think is suspicious or goes against the fair treatment of rare and endangered animals. The toll free number is 1800 1522. At last count, ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit had logged over 9,100 wildlife crime cases.
To continue their work, fundraising and awareness are vital. This month, the Song Hong Annual Half Marathon is being held on Sunday Dec. 13 in Hanoi. Dubbed the Run for Rhinos, it is hosted by Hanoi institution, The Red River Runners. This year’s race aims to bring attention to the crisis that rhino populations are facing worldwide as a result of the senseless poaching of rhino horns, used in traditional medicine and as a status symbol in Vietnam and China. — Jon Aspin
For more details about ENV please go to envietnam.org. To get involved in the Song Hong Half Marathon, click on redriverrunners.com