Giving nature a voice: boosting conservation with communications

A grant administered by IUCN and CEPF is boosting conservation efforts in Viet Nam with a public awareness project.

Wild Life in Viet Nam: a Red-shanked Douc (listed as Endangered) found in Sơn Trà, Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Viet Nam is located at the edge of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, one of the planet’s most biologically rich—but also heavily threatened—regions. Aside from its diversity of wildlife, the country is home to rare species such as the saola. Unfortunately, Viet Nam is also recognized as one of the hotspots for illegal wildlife trade and consumption. But while official measures are being taken to curb this, much more needs to be done to stop the rampant consumption of wildlife.

GreenViet, a local NGO working to preserve the biodiversity in the Central of Viet Nam, is doing just that. With the help of a grant administered by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and CEPF (Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund), the conservation group launched the campaign ‘Da Nang City says NO to wildlife consumption’ early this month.

Our project’s goal is to ensure Da Nang City is no longer a site of significant wildlife consumption in Viet Nam’, said Ms Le Thi Trang, project coordinator for GreenViet. ‘With the growth of the economy, the demand for wild animal products has grown substantially in recent years. The situation is  now very serious as more and more endangered wild animals are being hunted as exotic luxury food, traditional medicine, pets or ornaments.’

GreenViet is boosting its conservation mandate with a public communications and information campaign targeting Da Nang citizens and tourists. The campaign uses the help of media (TV talk shows), popular and respected campaign ambassadors, and innovative information materials such as maps with biodiversity information, and shirts and stickers with slogans such as ‘Wildlife is a National Treasure, not your lunch’. The campaign will focus on Vietnamese new year (Tet), the time of the year when tourism, as well as consumption of wildlife (considered as status symbols and souvenirs), peak.

The project also aims to involve Da Nang officials in the communications campaign by providing a training workshop for key staff in the Natural Resources and Environment Office and Culture and Information Office of the city’s five main districts (Hai Chau, Son Tra, Ngu Hanh Son, Liên Chieu and Hoa Vang). Greenviet is also collaborating with these offices to support the campaign during the tourist season and to incorporate curbing wildlife consumption into their workplans.

Da Nang City, Viet Nam’s third largest, has been identified as part of the illegal wildlife trade network that stretches from Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Binh Dinh Provinces to the North of Viet Nam. Wildlife consumption here includes buying souvenirs made of ivory, tiger fangs, bear nails, keeping wildlife as pets and consuming wildlife as exotic luxury food (such as wild meat or alcohol with preserved cobras, pangolins or bear paws). GreenViet believes public awareness is important to stop the consumption.

GreenViet’s project is an innovative response to illegal wildlife trade,’ said James Tallant, senior programme officer at IUCN Asia. ‘Through this initiative they are showing that civil society holds the key to lasting conservation, and to changes on the ground where action is most urgently needed.’

IUCN is leading the CEPF Regional Implementation Team (RIT) in the second phase (2013-2018) CEPF's funding work in the Indo-Burma hotspot, working together with the Myanmar Environment Rehabilitation-conservation Network (MERN) and Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden (KFBG).

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