It’s not a war, it’s a place, and an incredible and fragile one indeed. In 2012 we found ourselves with the capacity to expand our work to another Biodiversity Hotspot and there were many places we considered but Vietnam stood out as needing us for several reasons. First, of course, is the breath-taking level of biodiversity with huge gaps in data on thousands of species, and many more species not even yet described. Next are the many threats to this wildlife; many of them the usual suspects such as human development, deforestation, damming, logging, etc. But it’s location in black-market-riddled Southeast Asia as well as the patchwork of wildlands and human communities that is the Vietnamese landscape make the country a veritable collecting basket for wildlife poachers and a special challenge for data collection.
Imagine one of our night hikes up the slippery waterfalls of Yen Tu National Park, where we hope to collect eDNA or even (if we’re lucky) video of the ancient and now rare Chinese Crocodile Lizard. We have to work with our partners to make sure that our local hired guides are not also a potential poachers eager to make note of the prized lizards’ locations and to be sure that our climb is kept secret from the local communities.
At the same time, the proximity of so many small villages to so many wild places also gives TBG countless opportunities to engage citizens in wildlife data collection as well as to monitor, patrol, and protect their proximate wildlife from outside poachers. Our Biodiversity PEEK program in the Con Dao islands is a great example of this, and our Photo Expeditions in fabled Cat Tien are a place where you can join the fun and the challenge. It’s flat there, so don’t worry; no waterfall dangling in the dark for you photo expedition participants!