Lê Thị Trang joins a communication session on the protection of the endangered primates and forest at a primary school in Đà Nẵng City. Photo courtesy of GreenViet
By Công Thành
Having initially begun her involvement in wildlife protection as a volunteer with Education for Nature - Việt Nam (ENV) in 2007, 34-year-old Lê Thị Trang from Đà Nẵng was named among the world’s top ten conservationists, called “Hotspot Heroes” and who work to protect biodiversity hotspots around the world, by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) in 2020.
Trang is the first conservationist in Đà Nẵng to be so honoured and secured a place in the top ten due to her endless love of nature and, especially, her work in saving Việt Nam’s largest population of endangered red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus), at the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve in the central city.
Lê Thị Trang from an NGO, GreenViet, presents at an exhibition on the endangered red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus) in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve, Đà Nẵng city.. Photo courtesy of GreenViet
Trang, who is Vice Director of the Centre of Biodiversity Conservation and the NGO GreenViet, and her colleagues have been involved in community communications campaigns on wildlife protection, and especially the protection of the endangered red-shanked douc langurs in Sơn Trà, for the last ten years, promoting the responsibility all local residents must take in conservation.
“It is a great honour for myself and my GreenViet teammates and recognises our concerted efforts to raise awareness,” she said. “Many now know about the langurs at Sơn Trà, which is not at all far from the city centre.”
Love of wildlife
Born in 1986, Lê Thị Trang, aka “King Kong”, nurtured her love of nature by undertaking environmental studies at the Đà Nẵng College for Technology and Science and volunteering for ENV, where she monitored wildlife trafficking and trade in the central and central highlands region during her third year.
A red-shanked douc langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) is taken by photographers at a close range shot in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve of Đà Nẵng. The reserve is home to 1,300 individuals of the endangered primates that is only seen in Laos and Việt Nam. Photo courtesy of GreenViet
She has helped local rangers counter numerous cases of wildlife trafficking and the illegal captivity of endangered species.
Trang joined GreenViet in 2013 and began boosting community communications as a long-term, sustainable measure to address the broader issue of wildlife protection.
“Given the rangers’ poor management skills and reluctance to enforce the law, raising awareness about the protection of endangered species is a key task and perfectly feasible,” she said.
“Only individual action can save wildlife from being killed by poachers. And only individuals can stop destroying forests and habitat.”
A series of communication campaigns were organised in 2013-2017 to protect the endangered langurs at the nature reserve.
Kids and parents were encouraged to take field trips to Sơn Trà to watch the langurs, clean up the environment, plant trees, and set up the “Sơn Trà Little Guards” team, consisting solely of primary school students.
“Ten educational and communications programmes were organised every month in 2013-2017, with local primary school students attending eight sessions a week on nature and the endangered primates,” Trang recalled.
More than 300 teachers and 3,000 local residents joined around 25,000 primary school students in learning about nature and the langurs at Sơn Trà while on field trips.
Teachers from primary schools in Đà Nẵng join a field trip for watching the endangered red-shanked douc langurs in the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve. It's a regular activity in raising awareness among community of the role and responsibilty in protecting the nature and wildlife. Photo courtey GreenViet
The “I Love Sơn Trà” communications campaign inspired 13,000 people to support the protection of the Sơn Trà Nature Reserve and the langurs, with a total of VNĐ1 billion (US$43,000) raised from donors last year for protection efforts.
“Eighty per cent of people who visited the reserve on field trips then supported the protection of the langurs and also protested mass tourism and over-construction on the reserve,” Trang said.
GreenViet, she explained, plans to educate 5,000 students from 56 schools in Đà Nẵng on nature and wildlife protection over the next three years.
The younger generation in Đà Nẵng will know the value and role of the langurs in the natural world and the need to maintain the “evergreen” forests of Sơn Trà.
“We hope the nature reserve will become a giant outdoor school for young people in Đà Nẵng, fostering their love of nature and creating a positive attitude towards environmental protection,” she said.
“One ‘nature school’ was built on a 30-ha eco-tour site in the reserve and is a starting point for field trips of primary school students, parents, teachers, and tourists exploring the beauty of the primeval forest.”
In January of next year Trang will be the sole Vietnamese conservationist honoured at a special CEPF event in Paris.
This will be her second honour, following the 2015 Future for Nature Awards for young conservationist around the world.
“Trang was at the centre of the Sơn Trà campaign, bringing dynamism, creativity, and inexhaustible energy,” said Managing Director of CEPF Jack Tordoff, who oversees CEPF investment in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, which includes Việt Nam. “Her work and that of GreenViet inspire me.”
“The ‘Hotspot Heroes’ represent the many tenacious, committed conservationists taking action every day to ensure the future of biodiversity hotspots and the people who depend on these vital ecosystems,” CEPF Executive Director Olivier Langrand added.
Conservationists and communication staffs of GreenViet take part in a field trip in the Sơn Trà Nature reserve in tracking the endangered primates in the area. Photo courtesy of GreenViet
“Trang and GreenViet endure a multitude of challenges - long hours, gruelling travel, difficult working conditions, political hurdles, and even threats to their lives - in pursuit of a healthy, sustainable world,” he went on.
“They are changing the way people in Việt Nam value nature, bringing together communities, businesses, and government to protect important ecosystems that are key to the country’s future.”
According to a recent GreenViet report, the 4,400-ha Sơn Trà Nature Reserve is home to more than 1,300 red-shanked douc langurs and in excess of 1,000 plant and 370 animal species.
The red-shanked douc langur was featured in the biodiversity logo of the Đà Nẵng Department of Natural Resources and Environment in 2017. VNS