Thai Van Nguyen founded 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 guns, and arrested 558 people for poaching, leading to a significant decline in illegal activities in Pu Mat National Park. Pangolins are the world’s most heavily trafficked mammal despite an international trade ban. Heavy demand for their meat, scales, and blood threatens pangolins with extinction; all eight pangolin species are on the IUCN Red List.

“Working with pangolins is my greatest passion. It’s a joy to dedicate myself to the restoration and protection of this wild species”

A Total Commitment to Pangolin Protection

In order 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 husbandry manuals for rescued pangolins, published research in peer-reviewed journals, attended international workshops, and developed Vietnam’s first reintroduction and tracking protocols for pangolins. Nguyen opened the Carnivore and Pangolin Education Center, the first of its kind in Vietnam, in order to provide wildlife conservation courses to students and the general public. He also educated customs officials, border guards, and rangers on wildlife laws and how to properly care for seized pangolins.

Vietnam’s first Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Education Center

 

Many children in Vietnam don’t get the chance to learn about wildlife. There are no formal wildlife education lessons in the Vietnamese schools and children have limited opportunity to discover the forest and wildlife.

He developed Wildlife Education Programs for children in different age groups from 5 to 13 years old. During a full-day program, children explore Cuc Phuong National Park and visit our education center to see some of the rarest species, such as Sunda Pangolins and Owston’s Civets. Since the start of our Wildlife Education Program, already more than 8,000 school children joined!

 

Vietnam’s first Asian Pangolin Rehabilitation Center

In 2018, Nguyen created Vietnam’s first-ever anti-poaching unit, which is co-managed by a local NGO and government, through which he personally trains rangers on wildlife conservation, animal identification, GPS skills, basic martial arts, and survival skills. The unit cooperates with government rangers on missions throughout 235,000 acres (95,000 hectares) 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.

Vietnam’s first-ever anti-poaching team

In 2018, Nguyen created Vietnam’s first-ever anti-poaching unit, which is co-managed by a local NGO and government, through which he personally trains rangers on wildlife conservation, animal identification, GPS skills, basic martial arts, and survival skills. The unit cooperates with government rangers on missions throughout 235,000 acres (95,000 hectares) 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.

THE WORLD FIRST organization implemented drone technology to monitor pangolins after released

Nguyen has also looked to global strategies and worked with the management authority of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2016 to upgrade pangolins to Appendix I, a designation that bans international trade for animals most 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 illegal 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 for understanding and protecting this critically endangered animal.