Fighting for the forests with fire in his eyes

Fighting for the forests with fire in his eyes

Posted 12 July 2011, by Thu Trang, Viet Nam News,

Professor Dang Huy Huynh received a certificate of merit for his contribution to protecting the environment. He is aged 80, but still tramps across the country in child-like awe of the environment, which he says is fast changing.

Dang Huy Huynh never tires of finding new ways to protect the environment. He attributes his zeal to the time spent fighting on the front lines. Thu Trangreports.

Despite his 80 years, Professor Dang Huy Huynh still tramps across the country to find new ways of protecting the environment: he proposes laws to ensure biological diversity, participates in the State committee to supervise large hydroelectric plants and gives lectures to young students so that they can follow in his footsteps.

Former director of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, Professor Huynh is now chairman of the Viet Nam Animal Association, executive committee deputy chairman at the Viet Nam Association for Conservation of Nature and Environment and a member of the Viet Nam Association of Biology.

“Sometimes I feel overloaded, but I always remind myself that I’m a lecturer and a scientist so I should try my best to do everything for our country as long as I am healthy,” he said.

Huynh, who was born in the central province of Quang Nam, started researching animals and the environment in 1961, when he worked for the Biology Division of the State Committee on Science.

“I loved the work because after nearly 10 years of being in the army and fighting on the front lines, I appreciated the beauty of the environment,” he said.

In 1976 Huynh became director of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources and in 1985 he was selected as chairman of the Viet Nam Animal Association.

Nguyen Ba Thu, chairman of the Viet Nam Association for National Parks and Nature Reserves, said Huynh was one of the first to advocate for raising bears, tigers and gayals according to international conventions.

“Thanks to Huynh’s research, the vooc (a kind of langur) reproduced asexually for the first time in Viet Nam,” he said.

Huynh still goes on business trips to different places across the country—wherever he is needed—from Hai Duong, Bac Ninh, Cao Bang provinces to Phu Quoc and Con Dao islands.

Huynh’s appreciation of Viet Nam’s natural heritage increases with each place he travels, and he is grieved by the destruction he has witnessed.

Thousands of trees have been cut down in recent years. At present, Viet Nam has about two million hectares of forest, covering 38 per cent of the nation’s land. According to Huynh, forests should occupy 45 per cent and have a higher level of plant and animal diversity.

“During my business trips in the northern mountainous provinces in the 1960s, I saw hundreds of vooc mui hech (langurs with up-turn noses) drinking water in the streams, but now the species is facing extinction,” he said.

Huynh also saw dozens of gayals wandering in the forests in Lai Chau Province, but recently he has searched for them in vain.

The State and international organisations care about the issue and invest a lot of money in protecting the environment, but some people still damage the forests and kill the animals, he said.

“We should remember that if we damage the environment now, we will have to suffer serious consequences in the future,” said Huynh.

Belief in youth

Huynh has faith in young, hard-working scientists, who he says do not mind going over mountains and crossing forests to search for new species of plants and animals.

“If young people are encouraged, they will make a significant impact. They will have better access to information and technology than my generation,” he said.

In Huynh’s opinion, senior scientists should take responsibility for training, helping young people in their fields, in order to stimulate their interest in protecting the environment and animals.

“I’m sure that they will do the work well — even better than our generation—and the country’s future depends on them,” said Huynh. — VNS


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