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Nguyễn Văn Thái Becomes Vietnam's 2nd Goldman Environmental Prize Winner

He has dedicated his life to fighting wildlife poaching in Vietnam.

Nguyễn Văn Thái, the founder of Save Vietnam's Wildlife (SVW), was announced yesterday as a winner of the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the world's most presitgious honors for those working on environmental issues.

According to the prize's website, SVW rescued 1,540 pangolins (tê tê) from the illegal wildlife trade from 2014 to 2020. Thái also set up Vietnam's first anti-poaching team in 2018. Since then, the group has destroyed 9,701 animal traps, demolished 775 camps used by poachers, confiscated 78 guns and arrested 558 poachers, largely in Pu Mat National Park.

The pangolin is the world's most-trafficked animal, and all eight pangolin species are on the IUCN Red List of endangered animals.

Vietnam is still home to wild pangolins, but according to an interview Thái gave to AFP, their numbers have fallen by 90% over the last 15 years. Vietnam plays a key role in the illegal pangolin trade as both a consumer of the animal and a transit point, and huge shipmets of pangolin parts are common. For example, in May 2019, police found over five tons of pangolin scales in a cashew shipment from Nigeria at a port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

Thái is the second Vietnamese to win the Goldman Environmental Prize after Ngụy Thị Khanh, the founder of the Green Innovation and Development Center, won in 2018.

Five winners from other geographic regions were also announced. In addition to Thái being named the winner for Asia, Gloria Majiga-Kamoto of Malawi won for Africa, Maida Bilal of Bosnia and Herzegovina won for Europe, Kimiko Hirata of Japan won for Islands & Island Nations, Sharon Lavigne of the United States won for North America, and Liz Chicaje Churay of Peru won for South & Central America.

[Photo by Suzi Eszterhas via Nature Speaks]