Thai Van Nguyen
Thai Van Nguyen has always been passionate about wildlife. Growing up in the forests of Vietnam, he was concerned about poaching activities in which various animals were destined for traditional medicine and bushmeat. His first encounter with a pangolin occurred when he was eight years old, when his fellow villagers dug out a pangolin mother and her young from their underground burrow as a hunting trophy. This moment turned his life around; Thai decided to commit himself to nature conservation and preserve these special insectivores.
Vision and Approach
“Education plays a key role in convincing people of the inherent worth of the pangolin: it is unique as the earth’s only scale-covered mammal and an important regulator of insects and provider of burrow shelters to host other species. Education also empowers people to take informed choices: pangolin scales are not magical medicines” – Thai Van Nguyen
The Chinese pangolin and the Sunda pangolin are widely acknowledged to be the most trafficked mammal on earth, and are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN red list. Thai founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife (SVW) in 2014, to stop the hunting of this most trafficked animal. He also set up Vietnam’s Pangolin Conservation Action Plan, which is the first national strategy for species conservation. Thai believes that education plays a key role in convincing people of the inherent worth of the pangolin. So in 2017, SVW opened Vietnam’s first wildlife education centre that focuses on pangolins.
“To have emerged as a conservation leader in such an important but difficult country, and to have become a world authority on pangolins in the process, indicates that Thai Van Nguyen is a person of exceptional character, commitment and leadership skills. It is only through a truly concerted effort to combat illegal trade and conserve pangolins that these two species will survive.” – Saba Douglas-Hamilton, International Selection Committee