Education for Nature Vietnam Founder and Executive Director Vu Thi Quyen discuss their conservation eﬀorts and how the public can help
Shortly after graduating from university, Vu Thi Quyen took part in a conservation project at Cuc Phuong National Park working to educate the local community on why it was important to preserve the integrity of the national park. That was back in 1996, which, as Quyen noted, “At that time you can picture that conservation, protecting nature and wildlife was kind of an alien concept in Vietnam, especially raising awareness within the local community.”
While there may have been obstacles Quyen was able to see positive interest from the local community from the educational program she helped develop. “After two years we expanded the program to all the communities around Cuc Phuong National Park as well as the schools, and the community really loved what we were doing.”
Based on that experience, Quyen realized how important these conservation efforts were, not just to local communities, but to the entire country and began to expand her community-based educational and conservation efforts. By 2000 she founded the NGO Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) with a simple vision, “We created ENV to help other protected areas by creating similar initiatives.”
From there ENV began to train people to understand their educational and conservation focus. As they worked and grew they were invited to various national parks and protected areas to contribute to local conservation efforts. As Quyen explained, “Once there, our experts could help identify endangered species and teach Vietnamese about the need to protect wildlife and nature, but it’s not enough. For children growing up now, it could be too late.”
Through this important work ENV has changed the attitudes of not just the local community, but of park rangers and other stakeholders in these conservation efforts. Of course, not everyone is going to be on board, but they’ve dealt with them as well. “A scientist on a park staff went into the forest late one night with his brother to conduct an amphibian study. As they worked on the study they could hear a poacher approaching them. They had no guns, only a flashlight. So the younger brother shined the flashlight into the poacher’s face while the older brother held up a frog as a gun and told the poachers to freeze. They ended up arresting those poachers with nothing but a frog,” she recalled.
In 2005 EVN’s conservation efforts expanded from communitybased educational programs to a nationwide hotline: 1800 1522. As Quyen described, “We wanted to provide a trusted mechanism for the public to be involved in protecting wildlife because sometimes the public may want to help but may not trust the system, so the idea is that we could be the intermediary. So when we receive information from the public we will investigate for them and push the authorities to do their job. Whether we succeed or not we report back the results to the public. By doing so we increase transparency between the local authorities and the public.”
That transparency has translated to accountability, yielding great results. Over the years ENV has received a lot more support from officials and seen an increase in calls to the hotline from the public, all actions that are saving endangered wildlife. They now average around five new cases to investigate each day, resulting in the government imposing stricter sentencing on poachers and loggers.
More recently, ENV has started creating PSAs (public service announcements) that air on national television and radio. They produce around four new PSAs each year with topics such as “why Vietnam should not allow the farming of endangered species” or “how cruel the process of procuring bear bile for traditional liver remedies truly is”. As Quyen stated, “Through these efforts, we try to have a maximum impact if we can in three areas; public awareness, law enforcement and legislation.”
Over the years, ENV has gone from province to province helping to free many species; thousands of bears, hundreds of tigers, pangolins, turtles, macaques and many, many more; finding them homes where they will be safe. “The capacity of law enforcement to take care of these animals has increased significantly, with many parks now having rescue centers for these animals, from a primate rescue center in Cuc Phuong National Park to a bear rescue center in Cat Tien,” said Quyen.
Bear Rescue in Dong Nai
From public awareness to law enforcement and legislation, ENV has done a great deal to help endangered wildlife in Vietnam. To be a part of that success view ENV’s PSAs on their website or YouTube, call the hotline if you see wildlife being kept in captivity or sold at local markets, and make a donation to through their website, env4wildlife.org
For more info go to env4wildlife.org or to report any illegal or suspicious activity regarding wildlife call the tollfree National Wildlife Crime Hotline at 1800 1522.
Feature image: Green sea turtle confiscated
Images Provided by ENV