Future For Nature winner Thai Van Nguyen founded Save Vietnam's Wildlife (SVW), a non-profit organisation to save the Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin from extinction in his native Vietnam. Both pangolin species are considered the most trafficked animals in the world and have been accorded 'critically endangered' status by IUCN. In this article, we detail how Thai Van Nguyen and SVW use donations from Burgers' Zoo to turn the tide. An important element of their work is educating the Vietnamese population. Besides the two critically endangered pangolin species, SVW also protects numerous other animal species found in Vietnam.
Thai Van Nguyen focuses on fighting the lucrative illegal trade in endangered species. Many of the animals end up in the traditional Asian medicine trade. Van Nguyen and his team invest a lot of time and effort in educating the local population. For example, to explain that the scales of pangolins have no magical powers and how important the pangolins are for the ecosystem in which they live. The team is committed to providing local people living around the national parks with other, more sustainable ways to make a living so that they do not have to go poaching to make ends meet.
Nguyen's team pays great attention to education in schools, where young children, their teachers and parents learn about the importance of pangolins and the urgency to protect this critically endangered species. Between July 2014 and February 2022, more than seven thousand children, teachers and parents participated in this education programme. In the important buffer zone around Pu Mat National Park, a hotspot for pangolins, 3697 children participated in an educational school programme on wildlife and their role in nature. The team is working on a new programme to take primary school children into the tropical forest for an educational walk. The programme is very innovative and can be an important step towards people's appreciation of their immediate natural surroundings.
SVW also runs two rescue centres for confiscated, illegally traded animals to release them back into the wild where possible. Between July 2014 and February 2022, they directly rescued 2125 animals: 45 different species. More than sixty per cent of these shelter animals have since been successfully released back into the wild. Van Nguyen and his team have also set up facilities for breeding critically endangered species with the aim of releasing their offspring back into the wild. Special attention is paid to the Chinese pangolins and Owston's civet, for which national and international breeding programmes exist.
SVW also carries out a lot of important fieldwork. They monitor various animals that have been released from the sanctuaries, including through the use of drones and radio tracking devices around the release sites. Camera traps and direct observations in the field are also used to collect important data on the status and development of certain animal populations. SVW's intensive contact with the government is also important. The team works closely with the Ministerial Department of Forestry and supports the government in changing laws and policy guidelines to benefit conservation. Rangers patrol the national parks to prevent illegal poaching and to ensure that the protection is respected in practice.
It is good to see how a dedicated team of conservationists, through structured strategic management and efficient use of donations, is starting to achieve more and more success in the fight for the existence of Vietnam's animal and plant species! When Thai Van Nguyen won the Future For Nature Award in 2016, he was still a shy young biologist at the beginning of his career but with a clear mission and a plan. It has been wonderful to witness his development into Vietnam's leading nature conservationist, with an organisation with dozens of employees, managing several national parks and two shelters under his responsibility. Burgers' Zoo Conservation is pleased to have supported SVW in 2021 again with a financial contribution to continue its excellent work.
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