The images of slaughtered animals will evoke humanity and compassion deep inside each person
"Since the 1960s, about 96% of rhinos have been killed in order to serve those who believe in baseless rumors about health as well as those who want to flaunt their feats or wealth."
Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Thao is a wildlife conservationist, photographer, and consultant for various conservations and environmental programs. She works for many non-governmental organizations such as the Born Free Foundation and #RememberingWildlife. During her 5 years working for the #RememberingWildlife organization, she has sheltered and returned to the wild many species such as rhinos, deers, giraffes, lions, orangutans, and other endangered animals in Africa and Asia. As a result, she established a reputation for herself as an inspiration for nature and wildlife conservation. From 2017 to 2019, Thao has been extremely active in animal sanctuaries and orphanages in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia ... She is also a consultant on environmental responsibility as well as being in charge of searching for sustainable supply sources for big corporate customers, primarily those operating in the F&B sector in Vietnam. Prior to her current occupation, Thao was a young architect who decided to quit her job in Interior Design to study Zoology Conservancy in pursuit of her dream of "saving the world". Who says "saving the world" is unrealistic? Let’s listen to Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Thao as she shares the story of her journey "I have to go and save the world!", which is not merely a pipe dream, but simply an obvious thought in the face of the alarmingly endangered wildlife. As the survival of animals in nature links directly to the prosperity of the ecosystem and human life, human’s acts of overhunting are not so different from destroying our own home, our beautiful planet Earth.
It seems that you devote the most to rhinos out of all the wildlife?
I am devoted to every endangered species, but among them, I realize rhinos are the most susceptible to extinction. Ever since the 1960s, it has shown that 96% of rhinos have perished mostly due to illegal poaching for their horns. Even my home country Vietnam is one of the few countries that trade in rhino’s horns. Unfortunately, 2016 already marked the end of rhinos existence in Vietnam natural environment.
During my previous voluntary trips, I have witnessed countless of saddening and pitiful moments. This one time, I came across a horrible scene where a mother rhinoceros, cut cleanly off her horn, was left to die in unimaginable agony. Meanwhile, her baby kept wandering about its mother’s immobile body until it possibly died either of starvation or was killed by other larger animals. That was so heartbreaking that it’s haunted me ever since and became the focal force of motivation for my contributions in an effort to assist these poor creatures.
"Happiness is being able to save a rhino who lost its mother and returning it to the wild successfully."
On your social networks, there’s a very heartwarming picture of you feeding milk to a baby rhino, so did it feel any different when compared to... feeding your kitten at home?
The feeling is especially and undoubtedly unique. When feeding milk to the rhino, I often harbor a sense of joy, sadness, happiness, and worry at the same time …
What a special feeling...
Right. Because when a rhino has to be cared for by a human, this implies it no longer has its mother and is forced to leave its natural habitat, which often results in the rhino’s low survival possibility. Only when this “baby” rhino has grown up healthy and has been returned to the wild safely can I happily give out a breath of relief.
What about your works at volunteer centers? Caressing a lion must also be a very fascinating experience?
Looking after a lion definitely gives you a whole different feeling compared to caring for your cat at home. You know, since these “cats” are so big and mighty. But at times, notably when being fed, they can strike you as strangely soft and cute creatures. Most lions at the volunteer centers are domesticated from an early age, our job then is to look after and assist them in regaining their wild instincts. So in the end, witnessing the lion you’ve been sheltering being released safely into the wild really holds an unforgettable feeling of happiness inside you.
"I believe and hope that the heart-wrenching images of the slaughtered animals will evoke humanity and compassion somewhere inside every human being."
The story of wild animals being driven to extinction in Africa, will there be any direct impact on Vietnamese people?
All creatures on this planet have an important role in balancing the ecosystem. Rhino is one of the iconic "Big five", generating revenues for the tourism industry, encouraging the appreciation for nature as well as inspiring the imagination of children around the world. Large mammals such as rhinos and elephants are also considered architects of the ecosystem thanks to their works in balancing the ecology of forests and grasslands, which contribute to the growth of many other species. Since ancient times, creatures have either thrived or perished on their own under the natural conditions of their habitats. However, nowadays, human’s excessive demands have substantially affected the survival of most plants and animals. Consequently, ecological imbalance, climate change has been taking place either with or without our realization.
Facing that risk, have young generations in the world developed an interest in wildlife conservation yet?
In developed countries, students are being taught about wildlife conservation at schools. Additionally, they also participate in a lot of extracurricular activities, as well as doing researches in museums. Therefore, young people around the world are showing considerable interest in this issue and are actively participating in voluntary activities. Vietnam is one of the countries with high consumption of large wildlife, but those who care about wildlife conservation are still in the minority and children have also not yet been widely educated about it at schools. Fortunately, in our conservation workshops, the students’ responses were those of interest, which is a very positive sight, although they still need to have a more appropriate environment or orientation. Besides such workshops, what other plans have you had in order to ignite the wildlife protection movement in your homeland?
I organized fundraising for conservation areas by selling paintings and photographs about wildlife. We also filmed a number of short documentaries to help people have a better understanding of the sad reality happening in nature. In the coming time, there will be many other activities such as documentaries about nature and wildlife in Vietnam, reportage on young people's thoughts on environmental issues. What’s more, we are nourishing a plan for a wildlife sanctuary in Vietnam, where young people can access information on conservation and environmental issues in general.