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Vietnamese NGO WildAct Awarded for Bird Conservation Project in Red River Delta

They aim to protect four endangered migratory bird species.

WildAct, a Vietnamese environmental NGO, has been awarded a Future Conservationist Award from the Conservation Leadership Programme. Each award is worth US$15,000, and they are given to "teams of early-career conservationists who are conducting high-priority projects focused on protecting species listed as Data Deficient, Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List."

In this case, WildAct was chosen thanks to their project to conserve shorebirds through community engagement in the Red River Delta; specifically the provinces of Thai Binh, Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh. Bird species in this area face threats from habitat destruction, hunting, pollution and climate change. 

A bird caught in a trap in the Red River Delta. Photo courtesy of WildAct.

Vietnam is part of the East Asian-Australiasian Flyway, meaning it is an important stopping point for migratory bird species, and the NGO is focusing on the Chinese egret (cò trắng), Saunders's gull (mòng biển), black-faced spoonbill (cò mỏ thìa), and spoon-billed sandpiper (dẽ mỏ thìa), each of which have experienced significant population declines in recent years. 

Their strategy is to empower local communities to take part in ecosystem management by identifying hunting hotspots, surveying hunters to understand their motivation and techniques, holding workshops with residents, and establishing a Local Conservation Committee and Community Conservation Team. 

Once that team is created, the goal is to remove at least 150 bird traps in the area within two months. 

Trang Nguyễn, WildAct's founder, said in an email that she and her team were honored to learn of the award: "Unlike other conservation NGOs in Vietnam, currently WildAct is the only women-led, women-run organization. Our team members are young, the oldest officer is only 33. Winning a renowned award such as the Conservation Leadership Award is such thrilling news to our team."

Bird traps in the Red River Delta. Photo courtesy of WildAct.

Trang also noted the importance of this project focusing on birds, which often don't get as much attention as more well-known species, both here in Vietnam and globally. 

"I think the general public are more interested in mammals, especially those that are classified as 'cute and cuddly,'" she said. "People are also more likely to relate to mammals than birds or marine animals, and this is so sad, because birds are amazing. They are living dinosaurs, they have colonized every environment on Earth, and they come in an astonishing variety of shops, colors and sizes. They, like many other species, are being pushed toward extinction." 

What makes WildAct's method unique is the focus on empowering local people to directly participate in conservation, instead of acting as bystanders. 

"The Community Conservation Team members will be local residents who will directly support authorities such as rangers to patrol and remove traps and be involved in awareness-raising activities in their community to encourage people to stop bird hunting," Trang explained. 

You can learn more about their approach through the video below:

Video via CLPawards YouTube page.

In further exciting news for Trang, her book Saving Sorya: Chang and the Sun Bear, which was released earlier this year, was named one of two winners of the National Book A Prize 2021 on November 12.

[Top photo: A spoon-billed sandpiper. Photo by Gerrit Vyn via Audubon.]

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