Former Illegal Forester Now Celebrated Forest Guard | WWF

Former Illegal Forester Now Celebrated Forest Guard

Posted on
04 September 2015
“Before joining WWF, you would have called me “lam tac” (illegal forest intruder)," Nguyen Huu Hoa says laughing as he begins his story. Having grown up in Thua Thien Hue, near the same forest that he is patrolling as a forest guard team leader now, Hoa knew the area very well before he started working for WWF. 

“Before graduating from university, like many other men in the village, I often went to the forest and harvested non-timber products such as bamboo, and rattan. There I often saw trapped animals, either injured or dead. They were helpless and I felt sad that I could not do anything for them.” Hoa recalls. “That is one of the reason that urged me to sign up for the Agriculture and Forestry University. I felt very blessed and happy when I joined the forest guard team. Now I can finally do something to save the animals that I always cared for.” Hoa cannot hide the excited tone in his voice, even after having worked in his position for four years. 

Nguyen Huu Hoa started as the team leader of forest guard team no. 1 of Thua Thien Hue Saola Nature Reserve in January 2011. Under his management, they were awarded best Forest Guard Team in 2013 and 2014.

Hoa and his people successfully released some of the rarest and most endangered species of the mighty Annamite forests, such as a grey-shanked douc langur, serows (a kind of goat), macaques, ferret badgers, and big-headed turtles. “I can’t remember how many animals we have saved, too many to keep track of," Hoa says. “Every time we successfully release an animal, I felt like we were saving a life. We just want to applaud after an animal runs off into the forest.” Hoa was also the one that saw and captured a rare and endangered Annamites stripped rabbit, which is endemic to the Annamites mountains.

Hoa did not know that he was nominated for the Dedication for Wildlife Protection Award in 2015 until he received a phone called from ENV, the organiser, informing him that he was among the winners. “I was on my patrol and was very surprised because I knew nothing about this award, let alone that I had won.” Hoa smiles when he says: “I felt so grateful to Hung, my manager who nominated me, and to other colleagues who helped preparing all the material to submit to the contest.” The award was initiated by ENV a local NGO, in partnership with the government and other local and international conservation organisations. The award will be given out at the end of this year

Hoa is a bit shy when talking about his personal life. He is newly married. “I spend 22 days of the month in the forest and 8 days at home, so all I want to do when getting back home is to help my family.” Hoa said. “My family is often concerned for my safety when I am on duty. So my best policy is telling them that everything was fine, even when it was raining hard or there were floods in the forest.”

For Hoa, the difficulties and dangers at work such as sudden floods, accidents or exhaustion are nothing compared to the joy of saving forest animals and seeing his and his colleagues’ work pays off. “Now I see less traps during patrols compared to when I first started the job, so I know that our efforts are having a real impacts. I just wish that we could secure more funds to do this wonderful job.”
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