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Father of Vietnamese Environmentalism Passes Away at 87

Vo Quy, considered the father of environmental conservation in Vietnam, has died at age 87.

The New York Times reports that Quy passed away in Hanoi on Tuesday. A colleague told the news source he had diabetes and suffered from heart and kidney problems.

Quy, a trained ornithologist, leaves behind a large environmental legacy in Vietnam. According to the news source, in the 1960s he persuaded national leaders, including Ho Chi Minh, to create Cuc Phuong, the country's first national park, 130 kilometers outside of Hanoi. He was born on December 31, 1929 in Ha Tinh province and is survived by his wife and two sons.

Pamela McElwee, an associate professor at Rutgers University and expert on Vietnam's environmental history, told the newspaper: "[National leaders] listened to this guy who goes out and watches birds. I think that's a sign of how significant he was."

The Birds of Vietnam, Quy's two-volume study of Vietnam's winged inhabitants, remains a classic in the field, McElwee added. He conducted field work for the book during the war and published the first volume in 1975 as the conflict ended.

Quy also advocated Vietnam's first biodiversity action plan and founded the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies in 1985, according to the paper. This center allowed Vietnamese scientists to communicate with international experts at a time when the country was still largely closed to the world.

In addition to his conservation work, about a decade ago Quy was key in bringing both Vietnam and the United States to the table to discuss the legacy of the latter's use of chemical defoliants during the war. Susan Hammond, director of the War Legacies Project, explained to the Times that Quy maintained goodwill between the two sides by focusing on the environmental impact of the war, instead of the human cost.

"He really had a lot of influence on getting the US and Vietnamese together on this issue, but very quietly and very behind the scenes – in the Vo Quy way," Hammond told the news source.

Quy also hosted a popular VTV show about the environment and was known to children as "Professor Bird".

[Photo via New York Times]

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