Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Bye Bye Biodiversity

“Bye Bye Biodiversity” by Milo Anderson

 Golden Bee Eater 232

            By nature I am a very positive person, someone who is always trying to look at every situation optimistically. I need to be honest though, trying to be upbeat about Vietnam’s biodiversity, is not an easy task.

PaintedStork_220The state of Vietnam’s biodiversity is looking pretty darn bleak: high extinction rates, many threatened species, and sadly not a lot of effort taking place to change it. During our stay here in Vietnam we have been able to explore many parts of the Mekong Delta, but sadly we have seen more biodiversity on our restaurant menus then we have seen alive in the wild. Lizard_853This comes as a huge surprise, since the Mekong River Basin is ranked number two in terms of diversity of both plants and animals out of the world’s river basins, only to be outnumbered by the famous Amazon River. Where has all that biodiversity gone? Has it moved upstream and out of Vietnam or has it simply disappeared?

Civet_CaMau_636Sadly the main cause of biodiversity decrease in the Mekong Delta is the international black market for wildlife where many Vietnamese wildlife species have been eradicated due to poaching practices. Species like civets, mynah birds, gibbons, and even bears are all commonly sold within this trade. The species affected by the market are limitless, since it is not just a concern in Vietnam, but rather it is a global issue reaching all continents.
In fact the present black market for wildlife is estimated to have a worth of anywhere from $5-10 billion annually; this shocking total is only dwarfed by the net worth of the trade of guns and drugs. It is difficult to believe that wildlife
Alligators_765are being traded and used in a similar way as illegal drugs, and in many cases the demand is just as high if not higher for many of these animal products. With this level of demand for wildlife products like meat, skins, bile, bones, and scales; is there really any hope for Vietnamese wildlife?

Macaques_800Thankfully Vietnam is beginning to work towards restoring many of it vertebrate species though reintroduction programs across the country. Examples of some of these species are Siamese crocodiles and long-tailed macaques; hopefully some day in the future populations of these animals will be able to sustain themselves in the wild once more. GreatHeron_544On an even brighter note, within the past 20 years there have been over 60 new species of fauna discovered throughout the entire country of Vietnam. Many of these species are still considered extremely threatened but there is hope for saving them and improving the biodiversity of Vietnam. With these new discovers optimism is regained within the delta which sheds some much needed light on the all too bleak state of Vietnam’s natural places.

Crabs_995But what can we do, what actions can we take to make a difference towards improving Vietnam’s biodiversity? One of our professors at Can Tho University used this powerful statement during his conclusion; “the ending of understanding is the beginning of application.” Kingfisher_295For example now that everyone in our group has greatly improved their understanding of the wildlife of Vietnam we can apply that in some way. We all have become warriors for wildlife whether we like to think we are or not. By simply sharing our memories from Vietnam all of us can take those memorable moments and turn them into opportunities to teach others. Just like that professor said understanding always comes before application, so now we must pass on the knowledge. In fact now that I think about it YOU (yes you) now have a better understanding of the biodiversity of Vietnam’s wildlife. So technically you can now pass on what you have learned too!CommonIora_512

How are you going to make a difference for the wildlife of the Mekong Delta?

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