Vietnamese conservationist a biodiversity ‘Hotspot Hero’

By Nguyen Quy   May 25, 2020 | 06:11 pm PT
Vietnamese conservationist a biodiversity ‘Hotspot Hero’
Le Thi Trang started her mission to protect red-shanked douc langurs in central Vietnam in 2013. Photo courtesy of Le Thi Trang.
Le Thi Trang is one of 10 global conservationists honored as “Hotspot Heroes” by the U.S.-based Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).

CEPF, which enables civil society to participate in and benefit from conserving some of the world’s most critical ecosystems, said the honorees were chosen from the hundreds of civil society organizations that have received grants from the fund in the 10 global biodiversity hotspots where it is currently active.

The Hotspot Heroes and the nongovernmental organizations they work for are making outstanding contributions to the conservation of the hotspots, it said.

They exemplify "the kinds of dedicated, dynamic people who work to ensure that intact ecosystems can continue to sustain flora and fauna and provide clean air, fresh water, healthy soils, sustainable livelihoods, resilience to climate change and much more." 

Trang is the vice director of the GreenViet Biodiversity Conservation Center, a Da Nang-based non-government organization that does biodiversity research. She has been honored for her efforts to protect the Son Tra Peninsula, which acts as a natural shield for the central city of Da Nang, and hosts Vietnam's largest population of the endangered red-shanked douc langurs (Pygathrix nemaeus).

The species is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. 

"Trang was at the center of the Son Tra campaign, bringing dynamism, creativity and inexhaustible energy. The work of Trang and GreenViet is an inspiration to me," said Jack Tordoff, CEPF managing director, who oversees the fund's investments in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, including Vietnam.

The campaign to protect the peninsula's biodiversity, including the red-shanked douc langurs from the perils of poaching and the tourism boom, was launched in 2013. It has saved most of red-shanked doucs in danger of extinction.

Trang was part of the GreenViet effort to study the number of douc langurs for conservation purposes, raising public awareness of the necessity to protect the rare species and consulting with the city government to implement urban planning and tourism projects that do not damage the ecosystem. 

Trang said images of the langurs were posted on banners at bus stops in the city, raising awareness among the community and the tourists on the need to protect the species.

Vietnam is home to around 1,000 red-shanked doucs, including 300 in Son Tra. 

The langurs are threatened mostly by poaching. They are identified as endangered by the International Union of Conservation for Nature and listed in Vietnam’s Red Book of rare animals that must be protected.

Also known as "costumed apes" due to their striking appearance, the monkeys were first detected on Son Tra in 1969. They mostly live in troops of five to 10 at altitudes of 100-600 meters, but some live right by the sea.

"Trang and GreenViet are changing the way people in Vietnam value nature," said Langrand. "They are bringing together communities, businesses and government to protect important ecosystems that are key to the country’s future."

Trang graduated from the Da Nang University of Technology with a degree in environmental engineering in 2009. Then she volunteered for a local organization investigating and reporting wildlife-related crimes in central Vietnam. 

In 2013, she joined GreenViet and started her mission to protect Son Tra and the population of endangered red-shanked douc langurs.

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