A forest guard's story
Every day men and women are working to protect the saola from extinction. Key to this mysterious species survival are the forest guards; the men and women with their feet on the ground working in challenging and dangerous environments.
Meet Quoc Thien, a 26-year- old guard from the Saola Reserve in Thua Thien Hue and read about the first challenge he had to deal with.
I was born and grew up in A Luoi district, a mountainous area on the north central coast of Vietnam, so the mountainous terrain is familiar to me. After graduation, I joined WWF's Carbon Biodiversity project (CarBi) and became head of the forest guards team in the Saola Nature Reserve in Thua Thien Hue province.
When I first put the uniform on, I was filled with mixed emotions: anxiety, joy and worry. I woke up very early that morning at 4am as I was quite nervous for the first working day. My team members and I discussed a good patrol route and decided to go along the A Moong river up to the Laos border.
The trip was so hard, we had to climb a number of hills and pass some falls but everything was under control. However, it became more complicated after lunch time as we needed to find our way back. As head of the group, I was responsible for fixing the direction. This was difficult because the three guys who had been patrolling in the area said that if we just went along this small stream, we would meet the A Moong river and get back to the camp. In their opinion, the map was not helpful at all yet after studying the map myself, I determined that we should go back to the border and then along the river to the camp.
We could not agree. As I was a newbie they didn't trust me in my opinion. I became frustrated; my face was red and my body sweaty. We had to make a quick decision so that we could get back before dark. I looked at the map twice more and still believed that I was correct. With support from the three remaining guys (there were seven of us in total), I decided that the team would return to the border. It was a very hard decision because it would be a problem if we could not reach the camp before the sunset.
I did not know how I could be so brave and determined at that moment. After 30 minutes, it became foggy and we still had to pass many high and dangerous falls. The three guys continued to argue against me and I started to become anxious: was I wrong? However, I tried very hard to keep calm knowing my stress could affect the whole team. . I had to keep a smiling face in spite of the fact that I was in a very bad mood.
“There we are!” – the intense silence was broken by the leading guy’s words. He had spotted the Ho Chi Minh Highway, whcih would lead us to the camp. I had made a right decision! I was excited by the congratulations from my team. I did not know how to express my feelings at that time and knew being a Forest Guard would always be a challenging job.
Now, I am an experienced team leader but I will never forget my first working day which may stay with me my whole life. After nearly two years, my colleagues and I have overcome many difficulties and gained a lot of achievements together (13, 381 snares and illegal camps were removed thus). I look forward to more achievements.