Threatened speciesTracking Projects

Catching up with Save Vietnam’s Wildlife

At Wildlife Drones, we’ve had the pleasure of working with researchers, conservationists and land managers from all around the world who have dedicated their careers to saving species from extinction. One of our most memorable experiences was assisting the team at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife to radio-track the movements of critically endangered pangolins using our technology.

So, to commemorate this year’s Threatened Species Day, we caught up with Huyen Nguyen, a field researcher from Save Vietnam’s Wildlife to see how they were going with their Pangolin conservation work.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, Field Researcher at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife.

Before using Wildlife Drones, what was it like manually radio-tracking pangolins in the forest?

Huyen: To date, we have conducted several pangolin monitoring projects with handheld VHF devices to track our released animals in the dense forests in South-East Asia. However, it has some disadvantages when applied in the rugged terrain in some areas of our country. This method requires a great deal of human resources. Since we only could track one animal per day due to the difficulties of terrain, it took a lot of time and effort to track all of the released pangolins. Thus, the chance that we might lose our animals increased. 

Since learning to use Wildlife Drones, can you tell me approximately how many pangolins you have released and tracked with the drone?

Huyen: From the end of 2019 to now, we have released & tracked 12 Sunda pangolins for the monitoring survey using Wildlife Drones. 

Has using Wildlife Drones’ radio-tracking drone technology made tracking and researching pangolins easier or harder? How and why?

Huyen: In comparison to using the handheld VHF device, Wildlife Drones has allowed us to track many signals at the same time. This has helped us save a lot of time and human resources in the field. Moreover, the results generated by Wildlife Drones were more accurate with smaller errors. However, since the drone needs a flat area to take off and land in rugged areas, the monitoring range was limited. The operation of Wildlife Drones could be affected by the weather so it was quite hard to apply this system daily.  

Field Manager, Le Vang Dung, preparing to track the drone.

Has using the drone enabled you to gain further insights into how the conservation of pangolins can be improved?

Huyen: From the advantages of using the drone in monitoring our released pangolins, the overall conservation efforts could be improved with new and appropriate techniques since the drone can increase the quality of our work, and in addition to this, save our time and human resources.

Earlier this year, the Chinese and Vietnamese governments announced that they would be banning the consumption and trade of wildlife, including the Pangolin. Do you believe this action will prevent pangolins from going extinct, or is there more work to be done?

Huyen: The participation of both governments in prohibiting the wildlife consumption and trade is undoubtedly crucial in saving these species from extinction. This will reduce the demand for wildlife, which is mainly a driver for over-exploitation of these species by intentionally hunting and snaring in the forests. However, it needs more time and efforts to change the public awareness in wildlife consumption. For the critically endangered animals such as the Pangolin, it is important to have reintroduction programs in places where they are locally extinct.     

Thanks Huyen for sharing your experience! It’s been a pleasure working with the team at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife over the past year and we hope that our system will continue to be an invaluable tool for improving the conservation of pangolins.

Debbie teaching Huyen to fly a drone back in 2019.

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