‘We are wildlife conservationists’: Minh Nguyen wants to save endangered animals in Southeast Asia

Nguyen said that she’s been interested in wildlife since she was a child.

In Vietnam, where she grew up, there aren’t a lot of options for studying wildlife conservation. And the options that do exist are hard to find because they are not well-publicized.

Nguyen started her doctoral studies at CSU in January 2021. Photo: John Eisele/CSU

Nguyen said that her peers, educational professionals and family members promote and push fields aimed at careers in commerce and medicine. She pursued an undergraduate degree in biotechnology as a compromise, since that was viewed as a worthy career path.

“When I got to the university, I realized that there were courses I could take on wildlife and ecology, and teachers that were very interested in these fields,” said Nguyen. “I tried to find chances to work with them, studying amphibians, reptiles, fish and birds.”

At the same time, Nguyen was also trying to figure out how she might fit into the bigger picture of conservation efforts in Vietnam and Laos. She began working for the Wildlife Conservation Society and learned about the saola — a large mammal that has rarely been seen — and the muntjac.

“As a Vietnamese citizen, I only learned about these endangered animals after getting a job in wildlife conservation,” she said. “I want to commit myself to the conservation of Annamite wildlife so that they will hopefully flourish and be appreciated by many future Vietnamese generations.”

Muntjac are currently being hunted using snares made out of materials including bicycle cables and strung in forests throughout Vietnam, even in protected areas. Park rangers have found more than 27,000 of these snares in one national park, which highlights the level of risk for the muntjac and other animals, including saola and bears.

Nguyen wants to quantify the impact that snares have on the viability of muntjac populations, with an aim to show what level of protection is needed to maintain healthy groups of these endangered animals.

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