By AFP March 24, 2021 | 11:09 am GMT+7 VNExpressTrang Nguyen has spent much of her life trying to end the illegal wildlife trade. Photo by AFP/Nhac Nguyen.As a small girl, Trang Nguyen saw a bear stabbed through the chest with a giant needle at her neighbor’s house in northern Vietnam.
The bear, flat on its back, was being pumped for its bile, a fluid drawn from its gallbladder that has long been used in traditional medicine to treat liver disease.
“I had seen visitors to Hanoi zoo who brought sticks to poke animals and it really made my blood boil,” Trang, the founder of local conservation group WildAct, told AFP.
“But conservation wasn’t something I really wanted to do until I witnessed what happened to this bear.”
It was the first of her many encounters with a global multi-billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade that devastates species the world over, fuels corruption and threatens human health.
The 31-year-old — named by the BBC in 2019 as one of the world’s most inspiring and influential women — has spent much of her time since then trying to end the scourge.
She has gone undercover in South Africa to snare traffickers and secured a PhD in traditional medicine’s impact on wildlife.
Trang has also set up her home country’s first postgraduate course for aspiring conservationists, to help more Vietnamese make it to the top of her field.
In the 1990s, decades of war and isolation meant environmental awareness was a new notion in Vietnam.