US Vietnam war Agent Orange brain cancer and Senator McCain


This video from the USA says about itself:

Sheree Evans Releases Book About Agent Orange and Glioblastoma

14 February 2015

I spent the summer of 2013 riding my motorcycle coast to coast, giving talks about serious health issues that face American veterans. The ride, called “Operation Red Dragonfly,” was organized by a widow in Missouri named Sheree Evans, who goes by the nickname of Tiger.

As I covered more than 11,000 miles in roughly two and a half months, Tiger helped me gain access to many vets who live in the dark with regard to serious [diseases]. I spoke to veteran-oriented audiences all over the US about health hazards they face from serving in uniform. These include contamination from cancer-causing military base toxins, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and Agent Orange, a chemical defoilant sprayed over the jungles of Vietnam during the US war there.

When I first met Sheree Evans, I knew I was dealing with a special person, who was experiencing a bittersweet victory. Sheree’s husband, Tommy Evans, served in the Vietnam War as a Marine. His body was contaminated with dioxins from Agent Orange, a toxic chemical sprayed over the jungles of Vietnam that has claimed more than a million innocent lives.

In February 2011, i wrote an article about Sheree’s tireless efforts to push Tommy’s illness, a rare brain cancer called Glioblastoma, onto the record… so the Veterans Administration would in part, be forced to accept and admit that Agent Orange had a direct relationship to “Glio” as the disease is often referred.

Dedicated and unwilling to take no for an answer, Sheree Evans made history as her husband did, and I wrote about it in an article called, “Wounded by the Vietnamese, Killed by Monsanto.”

Now Sheree has written her first book, which recalls the story of her husband Tommy, and many other vets and their families, all impacted by Glioblastoma and similar illnesses that the U.S. government has fought to avoid responsibility for.

No words can properly underscore the immense value of Sheree Evans‘s new book, “By the Grace of God – A Promise Kept,” it is an extremely important addition to any veteran’s library, the information is vital and potentially life saving.

Even more importantly, the book is created to give hope to others who, like Sheree, are faced with the most difficult hardships because of U.S. government policy and a company called Monsanto, that prospers from the death its products inflict on human beings, there is no excuse for what Monsanto has done.

By Charles Ornstein / ProPublica and Mike Hixenbaugh / the Houston Chronicle in the USA:

McCain’s Brain Cancer Draws Renewed Attention to Possible Agent Orange Connection

For years, Vietnam vets and their widows have been pushing the VA to extend benefits to those exposed to the toxic herbicide and later stricken with glioblastoma. The VA has said no, but advocates hope the agency will now revisit the issue.

When Amy Jones’ dad, Paul, was diagnosed with glioblastoma last month, she wondered whether it might be tied to his time in Vietnam.

Then, last week, when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., also a Vietnam veteran, was diagnosed with the same aggressive brain cancer, Jones searched online for glioblastoma and Vietnam vets.

She soon learned the disease is one of a growing list of ailments that some Vietnam veterans and their relatives believe is caused by exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide sprayed during the war.

“Honestly, it’s not easy to even admit that this is happening, let alone to even talk about it,” said Jones, whose 68-year-old father has had surgery to remove a brain tumor and now is receiving radiation treatments. “It’s only been six weeks. It’s such a devastating diagnosis.”

McCain’s diagnosis comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is under increased pressure to broaden who’s eligible for Agent Orange-related compensation. During the war, the military sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide in Vietnam to kill enemy-covering jungle brush, and in the process, may have exposed as many as 2.6 million U.S. service members — including McCain.

News of his illness has prompted Amy Jones and others to call on the VA to study a possible connection between their loved ones’ Agent Orange exposure and glioblastoma.

Under current policy, the agency makes disability payments to veterans who develop one of 14 health conditions, but only if they can prove they served on the ground in Vietnam, where the chemicals were sprayed. Veterans who served off the coast in the Navy and those with other diseases not on the list — such as brain cancer — are left to fight the agency for compensation on a case-by-case basis.

Those with glioblastoma — or widows seeking survivor benefits — must prove the disease was “at least as likely as not” caused by Agent Orange, a cumbersome process that often takes years and more times than not results in denial.

Although McCain primarily served at sea from the deck of an aircraft carrier — and survived more than five years in a prison camp after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam — the VA would presume he was exposed to Agent Orange because he also spent time on the ground in Saigon.

Still, McCain never has sought to connect any of his health troubles, including prior bouts with skin cancer, with Agent Orange exposure and has a mixed record when it comes to compensating fellow veterans for wartime exposures. His office did not respond to emailed questions about a possible link between glioblastoma and the chemical.

As a senator, McCain voted to approve the original 1991 law that directed the VA to presume every veteran who served in Vietnam was exposed and to begin compensating those with illnesses scientifically linked to it.

McCain’s diagnosis comes as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is under increased pressure to broaden who’s eligible for Agent Orange-related compensation. During the war, the military sprayed millions of gallons of the herbicide in Vietnam to kill enemy-covering jungle brush, and in the process, may have exposed as many as 2.6 million U.S. service members — including McCain.

News of his illness has prompted Amy Jones and others to call on the VA to study a possible connection between their loved ones’ Agent Orange exposure and glioblastoma.

Under current policy, the agency makes disability payments to veterans who develop one of 14 health conditions, but only if they can prove they served on the ground in Vietnam, where the chemicals were sprayed. Veterans who served off the coast in the Navy and those with other diseases not on the list — such as brain cancer — are left to fight the agency for compensation on a case-by-case basis.

Those with glioblastoma — or widows seeking survivor benefits — must prove the disease was “at least as likely as not” caused by Agent Orange, a cumbersome process that often takes years and more times than not results in denial.

Although McCain primarily served at sea from the deck of an aircraft carrier — and survived more than five years in a prison camp after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam — the VA would presume he was exposed to Agent Orange because he also spent time on the ground in Saigon.

Still, McCain never has sought to connect any of his health troubles, including prior bouts with skin cancer, with Agent Orange exposure and has a mixed record when it comes to compensating fellow veterans for wartime exposures. His office did not respond to emailed questions about a possible link between glioblastoma and the chemical.

As a senator, McCain voted to approve the original 1991 law that directed the VA to presume every veteran who served in Vietnam was exposed and to begin compensating those with illnesses scientifically linked to it.

In 2011, however, as many Vietnam veterans aged into their 60s and 70s and annual disability payments to them swelled to more than $17 billion, McCain spoke in favor of an amendment that would have required a higher standard of scientific proof before any new illnesses would be covered.

The goal, McCain said in a floor speech, was to ensure that veterans who actually deserved compensation received it, “but at the same time not have a situation where it is an open-ended expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars.” The amendment was defeated — and since then, Vietnam vet disability payments have grown to $24 billion a year — and the episode damaged McCain’s reputation with veterans groups.

In a statement, a VA spokesman said the agency currently does not recognize a connection between Agent Orange exposure and brain cancer but is examining the topic anew in light of the questions that have been raised. In March, the VA asked a National Academy of Medicine panel studying the effects of Agent Orange to focus special attention on glioblastoma. (Previous reports by the group have not found a connection.) The VA also is asking about brain cancer in a sweeping survey of Vietnam veterans now underway.

VA data provided to ProPublica last fall shows that more than 500 Vietnam-era veterans have been diagnosed with glioblastoma at VA health facilities since 2000. That doesn’t include the unknown number diagnosed at private facilities.

ProPublica and The Virginian-Pilot reported last year how widows of Vietnam vets were banding together to push the VA to add glioblastoma to its list of diseases linked to Agent Orange. Through a Facebook group, they support one another and offer advice on navigating the VA’s labyrinthian process for seeking disability and survivor benefits.

Since news of McCain’s illness broke last week, dozens like Jones have joined the group, whose members mostly include widows and surviving relatives, but also some veterans living with the disease. “Every one of us, our phones were blowing up the day it came out” that McCain had glioblastoma, said Kathy Carroll-Josenhans, one of the group’s leaders.

The group now has some 450 members, about double its size in December.

One of their challenges is that the VA’s handling of claims related to glioblastoma has been somewhat inconsistent. Between 2009 and last fall, the Board of Veterans’ Appeals, the VA’s in-house tribunal for adjudicating benefit denials, issued more than 100 decisions in cases in which widows have appealed benefits denials related to their husbands’ brain cancer, according to a ProPublica analysis of board decisions. About two dozen won. (Here are two additional approvals from this year.)

Brad Riddell, a 35-year-old communications specialist living in Austin, Texas, is not a member of the Facebook group but immediately thought of his father when he heard about McCain’s illness. His dad, Jerry Riddell, served in a Navy construction battalion in Da Nang during the war and routinely came in contact with Agent Orange, which was used to clear brush before paving roads and runways.

Riddell was in high school when his father had a seizure while driving from work one day. A brain scan later that day revealed a tumor the size of a grapefruit and a medical term that still makes Riddell shudder: glioblastoma.

His father endured three surgeries — including two at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston — before doctors told him there was nothing more they could do. He entered hospice and died in February 1999, just 14 months after the diagnosis.

“I absolutely thought about dad when I heard about McCain,” Riddell said. “Anytime I hear that diagnosis, it just feels like, ‘Man, that person is a goner.’ It’s terrible.”

After his father’s death, Riddell’s mother gave him a bag of his military records and told him to hold onto them: “She said, ‘You need to have all these records in case there‘s ever a connection made between your dad’s cancer and Agent Orange.’”

In the wake of the McCain news, Riddell wonders if it’s time to pull the records out.

Heidi Spencer had a similar revelation a year ago. Her father, Jack Niedermeyer, died of glioblastoma at age 58 in June 2004. Her mother didn’t think to apply for benefits until last year when someone at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post where she works suggested it. Spencer helped her mom fill out the application and the VA approved it in March.

“He never knew his cancer came from Agent Orange. He never talked about his service,” she said of her dad, who worked in a steel mill in Pittsburgh and had six kids.

Spencer, 42, found her dad’s commanding officer in the Marine Corps, who wrote a letter saying her dad had been sprayed by Agent Orange.

“The more you research it, the more it comes into light,” she said. “The VA needs to look at this, they need to link it and they need to look at his [McCain’s] diagnosis and whether or not the Vietnam War played a role in him getting his disease.”

In approving her mom’s claim, the VA wrote that glioblastoma was not recognized as a disease that automatically warranted benefits linked to Agent Orange but that “current medical research has shown a causal relationship between herbicide exposure and glioblastoma multiforme.” This is contrary to the VA’s official policy.

Regardless of McCain’s position on the matter, advocates hope his diagnosis will spark a conversation.

In a statement last week, John Rowan, the president of Vietnam Veterans of America, said he was saddened to learn “yet another Vietnam veteran” had been diagnosed with glioblastoma.

“Unfortunately, brain cancer is not on the presumptive list for exposure to Agent Orange,” Rowan said in a statement, “despite the efforts of our fellow veterans and their family members.”

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.

Vietnamese bear bile farms shut down


This video says about itself:

19 July 2017

Vietnam signs a Memorandum of Understanding to make bear bile farming illegal as it aims to eradicate the practice by 2020.

From AFP news agency:

Vietnam Agrees to Shut Down Illegal Bear Bile Farms

The government and a non-profit animal welfare organization agreed to rescue more than 1,000 bears from facilities that harvest bear bile, which is used in traditional medicine.

July 19, 2017

11:41 AM EDT

Vietnam agreed Wednesday to rescue more than 1,000 bears from illegal farms across the country, in a move to end the traditional medicine trade in the creatures’ bile.

Though bile farms are already outlawed in Vietnam, bears are still captured and caged in illicit facilities where their bile is extracted using invasive and painful techniques.

Vietnam’s Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) and non-profit group Animals Asia signed an agreement Wednesday to rescue all remaining bears from farms, committing to end bile trade and close all facilities within five years.

“This is a truly historic day,” said Animals Asia CEO Jill Robinson at the signing in Hanoi, adding that the decision “will lead to the definitive end to bear bile farming here in Vietnam.”

Bear bile farming has been outlawed in Vietnam since 1992. But many bile farms use a legal loophole allowing them to raise the animals as pets.

There are about 1,200 bears in captivity in Vietnam today, down from more than 4,000 in 2005, caged in more than 400 bear farms across the country.

Animals Asia estimates it will cost up to $20 million to rescue and build enough sanctuaries to house the bears, and called on donors, companies, and the government to pitch in.

“We cannot do this by ourselves, the government needs to take responsibility for the wildlife in the country,” said Tuan Bendixsen, Vietnam director for Animals Asia.

Officials said funding is the main hurdle to rescuing the bears and putting an end to the trade.

“We face difficulties finding funds to prevent and stop the hunting and rescue of wild animals,” VNFOREST deputy director Cao Chi Cong said.

Bendixsen warned that bile farms could move into neighbouring Laos or Cambodia, and urged countries to adhere to an international convention that bans cross-border bear and bile trading.

Wednesday’s agreement follows an announcement in 2015 from Vietnam’s Traditional Medicine Association to remove bear bile from its list of sanctioned prescriptions by 2020.

The bears are often kept in small cages, and their bile is ‘free dripped’ via a hole in the animal’s gall bladder or a catheter. Many are starved, dehydrated, wounded, and psychologically scarred when they are rescued.

Bear bile contains an acid which can help treat liver and gall bladder illnesses, though effective herbal alternatives are available.

Vietnam war killed pheasants, can they come back?


This is an Edwards’s pheasant video from Artis zoo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; April 2010.

From BirdLife:

16 June 2017

Can we bring back the pheasant that was wiped out by the war in Vietnam?

The Edwards’s Pheasant, a Vietnam endemic, has been all but wiped out in the wild in the aftermath of the war that once ravaged the land. But a prospering caged community brings hope that it could once again come home to roost

By Nicola Davies

Framed by mounds of white tuft, the ruddy faces of the Red-shanked Douc monkeys peer out from the forest canopies. In the distance, calls of White-cheeked Gibbons echo through the early morning stillness. Underneath, browsing in the shadows of the forest floor are myriad species of deer; among them forages one of the world’s rarest large mammals – the Saola, a bovine that lives in forests so wild and remote, that they were unknown to humans until researchers happened upon the remains of one during an expedition in 1992.

That is a measure of how deep into the wilderness we’ve had to come to get here. We’re in Khe Nuoc Trong, an evergreen-broadleaf forest situated in the Annamese lowlands, Vietnam. It feels like you couldn’t stretch your arms out to yawn without knocking three or four endangered species off their perch. The area is a jewel of biodiversity, but something’s missing. A very important part of the forest’s heritage, in fact. You could spend all morning listening out into the stillness without ever once hearing a guttural “uk-uk-uk-uk-uk” call, which once rang loud and clear through the canopies. A call that belongs, or perhaps once belonged, to the Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi (Critically Endangered) – an endemic species that has not been seen in the wild since 2000.

This beautiful bird, whose males are iridescent blue with a flash of red on the face and a white crest, was little known in the wild even prior to its disapperance; it was said to love the dark shadows of ever-wet lowland forests. It was discovered in 1896 and was recorded by French ornithologists during the early 20th Century, but then went unrecorded for almost 60 years. Suddenly, in 1996, it was rediscovered, but almost as soon as it was found, it vanished again. Extensive surveying of its favoured haunts has found no trace of it since.

This is perhaps not surprising, the one thing we do know about Edwards’s Pheasant is that it is a lowland rainforest specialist, and Vietnam’s rainforests had a tough time during the 20th Century, to say the least. The centre of the species’ historic range lay in Quang Tri province, the site of the demilitarised zone during the Vietnam War, and an area that suffered the fiercest fighting and the most aggressive use of herbicides. During the War, which raged from 1955 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, seventy-two million litres of herbicides, including the infamous Agent Orange, were sprayed on forests and fields by American troops to clear vegetation. The effects on the area’s biodiversity, including the beleaguered Edwards’s Pheasant, are easy to imagine.

Since the war, increasing human populations and their demand for land for agriculture have further reduced any habitat suitable for straggling Edwards’s Pheasant populations. Some areas of forest, although they may look intact with trees regrown or replanted, may be devoid of animals because they have been intensively hunted for food or for illegal trade. As a result of all these factors, populations of Edwards’s Pheasant have been reduced, fragmented and left fragile – if indeed there are any left at all. As the years roll by, it seems increasingly likely that snares set for bush-meat may have picked off the last individuals and although it’s impossible to confirm for sure until every last patch of forest has been examined, the species could well be extinct in the wild.

However, there is good news, of a sort. Sometime in the 1920s, at least 14 Edwards’s Pheasants were taken into captivity and sent to France. This small, exiled population has done well, and there are currently over 1,000 birds in collections across the world, including birds in Vietnam’s own Hanoi Zoo. Some may not be purebred Edwards’s (many are crossbred with Silver Pheasant Lophura nycthemera), but genetic analysis is currently underway to find the best genetic stock. The plan is to select the best and purest birds to breed viable offspring for future release to the wild – that means two or three generations of chicks raised by their own parents. It will take time – at least five to seven years – but if successful, these birds could be released back into the wild, to be the first of new populations of Edwards’s Pheasant or to help the recovery of any remaining wild populations that may exist, undiscovered.

Of course, the wild must be ready to receive them. Currently efforts are being made to locate any remaining populations of Edwards’s Pheasant in pockets of suitable habitat within larger blocks of forest. A range of measures will be implemented to restore and safeguard other potential pheasant habitats. One of the greatest threats to the success of a reintroduction programme would be hunting, so Viet Nature (BirdLife in Vietnam), together with their partners, are aiming to eradicate hunting at key sites such as Khe Nuoc Trong, Bac Huong Hoa, Đakrong, Phong Dien and Kẻ Gỗ Nature Reserve.

The first steps towards establishing an Edwards’s Pheasant breeding programme have already been taken. With the support of local partners, Viet Nature will build a breeding station and environmental education centre on five hectares of land in Quang Binh province (outside any reserve for biosecurity reasons). The support of a technically qualified and interested partner is being sought to help fund and manage the new station when it is up and running.

Right now the Edwards’s Pheasant ex-situ conservation community, including staff at Hanoi Zoo, and zoos and private breeders in Europe, are selecting the best birds for the breeding programme. Four birds were sent to Hanoi Zoo in 2015 to breed with descendants of the only wild male, caught in 1997. Viet Nature and Hanoi Zoo are collaborating on a plan to bring the first birds for the breeding station either from, or via, Hanoi Zoo. Establishing a viable breeding group of Edwards’s Pheasant is just the first step. Release into the wild will take still more time, trial and error, and naturally not all the birds released will survive. But Viet Nature and their partners are in this for the long haul. Right now, in this Year of the Rooster, the first aviaries with a few pairs of Edwards’s Pheasants will be built at the breeding station. They hope that by the next Year of the Rooster (2029) there will once again be sustainable populations of Edwards’s Pheasant in the wild in its homeland.

At the core of this effort to return one species of bird to its natural home is the restoration of Vietnam’s forests. Forests provide the basics of life, clean air and clean water and are a buffer against the threat of climate change. But for Vietnamese they are something more, they signify the survival of the unique beauty of Vietnamese landscapes and culture. What better symbol of that survival than a beautiful bird, its feathers flashing in the dappled light, rejoicing in the life-giving rain, once again piercing the silence with an “uk-uk-uk-uk”.

New elf frog species discovered in Vietnam


Adult male of Ophryophryne elfina sp. n. in calling position in Hon Ba N.R., Khanh Hoa Prov., Vietnam. Photo by L.T. Nguyen

From ScienceDaily:

Herpetologists describe an elf frog from the elfin forests in southern Vietnam

May 19, 2017

Summary: Going under the common name of Elfin mountain toad, a new amphibian is recognized as one of the smallest representative of its group. The new species was identified from the highland wet forests of Langbian Plateau, Southern Vietnam. The discoverers gave it this name that derives from German and Celtic folklore because of the resemblance they found between the tiny delicate amphibians and elves – small magic creatures. Furthermore, their habitat is known as elfin forests.

Deep in the foggy, moss-covered forests of Southern Vietnam, herpetologists uncovered one of the smallest species of horned mountain toads.

The name of the new amphibian (Ophryophryne elfina) derives from European mythology and translates to “elfish eyebrow toad.” Despite being recently discovered, the new species is already considered to be endangered. Having remained hidden in the highlands of Langbian Plateau, it is now described in the open access journal ZooKeys.

The unique species name “elfina” derives from the English word “elf.” In German and Celtic folklore, elves are described as small, supernatural creatures usually dwelling deep in the forests of magical hills. The frogs were named after them primarily because of their small size of around 3 cm, which makes them the smallest known species of the genus — as well as their fascinating appearance — they have small horn-like projections above their eyes.

The unique habitat of the amphibians also inspired their species name. The Elfin mountain toad lives in the highland wet subtropical evergreen forest. There it can only be found on mountain summits higher than 1800 m, or on the slopes of the eastern side of Langbian Plateau, where the rainfall is high because of the sea nearby. Both the rocks and the dwarf curbed trees are covered with a heavy layer of moss, whilst a thick misty fog is constantly lingering amongst the trees. This is why such wet mountain ecosystems are known as elfin forests.

The Elfin mountain toad is one of the three known species in the genus Ophryophryne that inhabit Langbian Plateau. Curiously, all three of them share the same habitat, but can be easily distinguished by their advertisement calls resembling whistling birds.

United States rainbow flag creator, RIP


This 2010 video from the USA is called History of the Rainbow Flag with Creator Gilbert Baker.

By Nicole Chavez, CNN in the USA:

Rainbow flag creator Gilbert Baker dies at 65

April 1, 2017

Gilbert Baker, the designer of the iconic rainbow flag, has died.

In 1978, Baker sewed a multicolored flag that became the symbol of the LGBT community across the world.

Baker, 65, died Thursday in his sleep, said Cleve Jones, an AIDS activist and Baker’s longtime friend. He died in New York City, the medical examiner’s office there said.

A vigil in Baker’s memory was planned Friday evening under the rainbow flag in San Francisco’s United Nations Plaza. The banner could be seen flying half-staff from the balcony of Mayor Ed Lee.

“Gilbert was a trailblazer for LGBT rights, a powerful artist and a true friend to all who knew him. Our thoughts are with his friends and family. He will be missed,” Lee said in a statement.

Baker was born in Chanute, Kansas, and joined the US Army as a medic. He arrived in San Francisco about 1970 to work at an orthopedic hospital where Vietnam veterans underwent skin grafts and amputations.

The CNN article omits that Baker also designed flags for demonstrations against the Vietnam war. It is said that Gilbert Baker’s inspiration for the rainbow flag came from an earlier peace flag.

The Batman of Vietnam


This video, recorded in Vietnam, says about itself:

24 July 2016

In episode 21 of the Monday Morning Travel Vlog, “Boats and Bats”, we visit Ba Be National Park (aka Ba Be Lake) and take a trip on the lake.

Kayaking, a bat cave, and of course some more shuttle buses.

From BirdLife:

The Batman of Vietnam

30 Mar 2017

We interview Vu Dinh Thong, a man who fell in love with bat conservation only five years ago and is now one of Vietnam‘s leading bat experts.

In 2001, the Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) funded a project led by Vu Dinh Thong to study the diversity and status of bats in Vietnam’s Bach Ma National Park. An award provided the spark that ignited his latent interest in conservation. Five years later, Thong received further support for his bat conservation work, this time in Cat Ba Biosphere Reserve. Today, he is an acknowledged expert on Vietnam’s bats and their conservation.

How did you first become interested in conservation?

I first started paying attention to wildlife in 1995 during a field excursion at the end of my second semester at Hanoi National University of Education. But, to be honest, until I received an award from the BP Conservation Programme (the former name of CLP) in 2001, I was focused on academic research and had very little interest in wildlife conservation. With support from CLP to attend the training workshop for project leaders in London, I got the chance to come to England.

I took the opportunity to visit the Harrison Institute in Sevenoaks to learn about bat taxonomy and systematics. As a result of what I learnt I became the first bat specialist in Vietnam, and came to understand more about the diversity of bats and their status in my country. Since then, I have carried on conducting research on bats and their conservation. To my mind, CLP was responsible for initiating my career and helped me to direct the trends in bat research and conservation in Vietnam.

Did you have a role model or someone who inspired you?

When I was a student at university, my supervisor Professor Tran Hong Viet announced that Vietnam lacked bat specialists, and encouraged me and my classmates to focus on bat research. My first boss, Professor Cao Van Sung [a specialist in small mammals] recognised my capabilities and passion in research. He was the one who passed me the announcement from the BP Conservation Programme inviting people to apply for a grant. This was just a few weeks before the deadline for submission of the pre-application form. Until that moment, I had never heard of CLP.

Why are you particularly interested in bats?

I’m fascinated by bat diversity and, in particular, by echolocation. Bats have diverse systematics and external features. Their echolocation capabilities are absolutely brilliant. To my knowledge, humans still know very little about this subject. Like other Vietnamese wildlife, some bats are extremely threatened by human activities, which include cave visiting by tourists, poaching and habitat loss.

Bats are very sensitive to disturbance and many may become extinct unless conservation actions are implemented in time. I came to appreciate that bats are vitally important in ecosystems and need consideration from humans.

What aspect of CLP support did you find most helpful?

It was CLP who actually launched my whole career by providing support for my projects in bat research and conservation. Both my CLP-funded projects attracted a lot of attention from PhD candidates, scientists and the public, so they gave me a great opportunity to raise my profile. I have stayed in contact with CLP ever since that first project in 2001, and I receive updates through emails, Facebook, Roots Up and meetings with other alumni.

The whole CLP team over the past 16 years has always been kind, thoughtful, friendly and willing to help, and encouraged me in both research and conservation. I am very grateful.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work?

My work has led me to interesting findings, new to Vietnam and to science. I have also had the chance to help my colleagues in wildlife research and conservation, particularly in training and supervising followers and colleagues. I have also successfully supervised four MSc students in bat research and three PhD candidates, who will have finished their studies on bats by the end of 2017.

What achievement are you most proud of?

I have made new discoveries including a species of bat – Hipposideros khaokhouayensis – not previously known from Vietnam, and a species and subspecies – Hipposideros griffini and Hipposideros alongensis sungi respectively – that are both new to science. I created the first echolocation database in Vietnam and through my work I have raised awareness within the Vietnamese scientific community about bat research and conservation.

Prior to 2000, there were no Vietnamese bat specialists in the country. All material published in international journals used to be written by foreigners. That is no longer the case. One of the visible impacts from my CLP projects is that Vietnam now has at least three PhD students specialising in bat research.

What are Vietnam’s biggest conservation challenges?

Illegal hunting of wildlife and habitat loss or disturbance are both big problems, not only for bats, but also for other threatened wildlife.

What are the keys to success for conservationists in your country?

It needs a combination of communication skills and scientific research. Some conservationists are good at communication but have no personal background in research to convince the authorities or society about the need for conservation. On the other hand, some researchers are very good at research but not good at training or communication. Both communication skills and research capacity are equally important.

What are your plans for the next stage of your career?

I plan to carry on implementing research, conservation and training to help save the threatened species and their habitats; to understand more about bat diversity and echolocation behaviour; to increase conservation awareness within the scientific and public domain; and to build and strengthen a national network for bat research and general mammal research and conservation.

What advice do you have for the next generation of conservationists in Vietnam?

You should have a real passion for wildlife research and conservation. Everyone needs to be aware that there will be some difficulties at the beginning, but that is no reason to give up. Success never comes easily. It takes a lot of effort.