Forest Guard: Not an easy life



Posted on 11 October 2012  | 
Twenty years after its discovery, the extremely rare and threatened saola remains mysterious because this endangered species only lives in the most remote forests in the Central Annamites and southern Laos. With WWF support, two Saola Natures Reserves were established; one in Thua Thien Hue province and the other in Quang Nam province. WWF’s CarBi project, funded by the German Goverment through KFW- works in two countries within the two Saola Nature Reserves and Bachma National Park in Vietnam, and Xesap National Protected Area in Laos. CarBi introduced a new co-management model where Forest Guards are recruited, trained and managed by WWF in close cooperation with the protected area Management Boards of the said nature reserves. Up till now, the Forest Guards of Saola Hue Nature Reserve alone, have removed more than 13,000 lethal snares from these extremely sensitive habitats of so many rare and endangered animals, an achievement which is of international biodiversity significance, reconfirming the diligence and passion for excellence of these Forest Guards, according to Fanie Bekker, Trans Boundary Director of WWF CarBi. 

Nguyen Huu Hoa writes about his life as a forest guard.

After my graduation from the Agro-Forestry College in 2009, I was offered the position of forest guard in the Saola Nature Reserve in Thua Thien Hue province, central Vietnam, by WWF’s Carbon Biodiversity project. The reserve’s surface is 12,153 hectares with 11 sub-zones, covering communes of Huong Nguyen (A Luoi district) and Thuong Quang (Nam Dong district). The landscape is remote and hilly making it difficult to access especially in the rainy season.

Before each patrol, we have to prepare many things, from food, such as rice, salt and dried meat to essential equipment such as a GPS machine, camera, map and compass.

It was on one of these trips, more than a year ago when we discovered one of the critically endangered red-shanked douc stuck, distressed, in a trap set by poachers.

Despite the time that has passed the scene is still as vivid as if it had happened yesterday. The poor douc’s hands were hung on the tree. It seemed very nervous. We broke the trap and checked the douc carefully. It was a female individual, weighing about 15 kg. Fortunately, it was just trapped when we found it with little injury. I held it in my hands gently, so close that I could fell its warmness as well as the strong and quick beat of its heart. I bent down slowly to release it to the ground. The douc ran and disappeared into the forest in a matter of seconds. All of us, including four guys from the project and one man from the Reserve Management Board were very happy that we had saved that douc’s life.

The life of a forest guard in a remote area can be challenging. We spend months without electricity and struggle to communicate with the outside world. However, we are able to count on the friendship that the team members have established through sad and happy moments. And the more important thing is that we have contributed to the protection of Vietnam’s biodiversity by saving the lives of wild animals such as doucs, pigs, muntjacs and especially the extremely endangered saola.
Hoa (in white T-shirt) and his colleagues were releasing the douc
© WWF-Vietnam Enlarge

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