Winners of a major international environmental award in 2021 have just been announced, and the list includes a Vietnamese conservationist who is known for his vital work to help protect the pangolin, the world’s most trafficked animal.
Awarded annually to environmental heroes from each of the world’s six inhabited continental regions, the Goldman Environmental Prize honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring us all to take action to protect our planet.
The award was founded in 1989 in San Francisco by philanthropists and civic leaders Rhoda and Richard Goldman.
In 32 years, the Award has had an immeasurable impact on the planet; To date, it has honored 206 winners from 92 countries and shed light on many of the critical issues facing the Earth.
“When it comes to the environment, the global community of… leaders, thinkers and philanthropists is only growing and becoming more sophisticated, more united, more powerful,” said Susie Gelman, vice president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. said in a statement.
“These award winners have a lot to teach us about the way forward and how to maintain the balance with nature that is key to our survival. These phenomenal environmental champions remind us of what can be accomplished when we fight and refuse to accept powerlessness and environmental degradation. “
Thai Van Nguyen won the Asia Award this year for his work in founding Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, which rescued 1,540 pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2020.
Nguyen also established Vietnam’s first anti-poaching unit, which, since 2018, has destroyed 9,701 animal traps, dismantled 775 illegal camps, confiscated 78 weapons and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decrease in illegal activities in Pu Mat National Park. .
Pangolins are the world’s most trafficked mammals despite a ban on international trade. The great demand for their meat, scales and blood threatens the pangolins with extinction; all eight species of pangolin are on the IUCN Red List.
The son of the illegal wildlife trade cartel
Similar in appearance to armadillos, pangolins are the world’s most hunted and trafficked mammal, and three out of four Asian pangolin species are critically endangered.
Because their scales are believed to cure everything from asthma to cancer, pangolins are widely used in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine. While pangolin scales are a perfect defense against predators, when stressed or threatened, pangolins curl up into a ball, making them an easy target for poachers.
Research on pangolins is challenging, as they are highly susceptible to stress and notoriously picky eaters, rarely surviving in captivity for more than a few days.
They are also difficult to observe in the wild and there is little data on their reproductive behavior and life expectancy. Due to these gaps, there are no clear estimates of how many pangolins are left in the wild.
In the last decade, it is estimated that more than a million pangolins were poached around the world, and Vietnam is a particular hotbed: in 2004, 60 tons of live pangolins were seized in Vietnam.
A total commitment to the protection of the pangolin
According to a biography Posted by The Goldman FoundationVan Nguyen, 39, grew up near Cuc Phuong National Park and, as a child, witnessed a pangolin mother and baby being captured and killed by neighbors in his village. Nguyen resolved to make pangolin conservation his life’s work.
To reverse the fate of the pangolins, Nguyen set out to stop poaching and educate the Vietnamese public on the importance of pangolin conservation. His efforts began with a sophisticated outreach and education campaign: he wrote rescued pangolin husbandry manuals, published research in peer-reviewed journals, attended international workshops, and developed the first protocols for the reintroduction and monitoring of pangolins in Vietnam.
Nguyen also opened the Carnivore and Pangolin Education Center, the first of its kind in Vietnam, to offer wildlife conservation courses to students and the general public. And it educated customs officials, border guards and rangers on wildlife laws and how to properly care for captured pangolins.
Nguyen didn’t stop there; established Vietnam’s first Asian Pangolin Rehabilitation Center, which focuses on the rehabilitation of captive pangolins.
To care for rescued pangolins, who often arrive in critical condition, he used grant funds to build two fully equipped veterinary clinics with hematology and ultrasound capabilities.
It has had an 80% survival rate among severely wounded and septic pangolins. The clinics also serve as research facilities, where his team has learned how to improve medical care for injured pangolins and identified 12 species of parasites in pangolins, and corresponding treatment plans.
SVW collaborates directly with other rescue centers and has successfully rehabilitated and released nearly 500 animals. Nguyen has expanded his rescue center to also rescue carnivores, primates and turtles.
To better understand the poaching supply chain, Nguyen worked with poachers to take him into the forest and show him how they track and catch pangolins. He also visited markets, restaurants, and traditional medicine doctors to better understand the demand for pangolins.
In 2018, Nguyen created Vietnam’s first anti-poaching unit, which is co-managed by a local NGO and the government, through which he personally trains rangers in wildlife conservation, animal identification, GPS skills. , basic martial arts and survival skills.
The unit cooperates with government rangers on missions across 235,000 acres of primary forest in Pu Mat National Park; on trips lasting up to six days, teams destroy illegal camps and wildlife traps, confiscate weapons and arrest poachers.
SVW is the first organization in the world to implement monitoring of released pangolins using drone technology.
Nguyen has also pursued global strategies and worked with the managing authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2016 to upgrade pangolins to Appendix I, a designation that prohibits international trade in the most animals. threatened with extinction.
Between 2014 and 2020, Nguyen’s leadership raised awareness of pangolin poaching and resulted in the rescue of 1,540 pangolins from the illegal wildlife trade.
SVW staff report an 80% decrease in poaching activities since the unit’s establishment. His partnerships with government, law enforcement, scientists, veterinarians, and fellow activists have been critical to his success.
As one of the few people in the world working on pangolin conservation and rehabilitation, Nguyen is filling a crucial space to understand and protect this critically endangered animal.
(MEET UP Nguyen in the video below).
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