“In Vietnam, as well as in the world, pangolins are the most-captured species. Their black market price is high, up to $200 to $300 per kilogram. That is why they are constantly being hunted and sourced.”
In Asia, pangolins are trafficked for use in traditional medicine, with their parts said to be able to cure everything from cancer to male impotence.
This illegal trade is worth billions of dollars.
“When we look at them, we think they are scary because they look like a dinosaur. But in fact they are really nice and shy, incapable of attacking or posing a threat to humans, but we are the reason for their declining numbers that could lead to extinction.”
Thai’s passion started at a young age.
A neighbor dug up a pangolin which was in a curled-up ball – the position used as a defence mechanism by the animal to ward off predators.
It was that experience that inspired him to protect pangolins.
At first he worked as a volunteer, before starting his own rescue group called Save Vietnam’s Wildlife.
Now, he employs more than 60 staff and has rescued close to 1,600 pangolins.
Thai’s protection group has helped set up joint task forces with rangers and locals to patrol and destroy traps set by poachers.
His work has inspired others to get involved.
“I started from zero here. The work was completely new to me. Thai was always there to guide me, little by little.”