|The Mekong Delta: learning the rhino doesn’t have to be killed|
Deep in the Mekong delta Damien meets with Mr Nguyen Van Be or 'Mr Be'.
After studying and eventually lecturing in Western medicine, Be moved to Dong Thap Muoi and set up the 1 000-hectare sustainable nature reserve from where he practises traditional medicine and runs a pharmaceutical company.
For the past 28 years he has transformed the area into a series of jungle canals, nurseries and balanced ecosystems between plants, animals and communities. The many laboratories onsite attract international guests studying traditional Vietnamese and Western medicine. Be claims to be able to accurately use all of the native plants in Vietnamese medicine and is leading efforts to rewrite ancient scriptures. He sleeps only four hours a day and has not personally utilised any form of Western medicine for almost three decades.
He drove us around the reserve explaining the many intricate ecological balances that revolve around each other. He spoke of previous issues similar to Africa’s: poaching, invasive species, fire and community resentment against a protected area – all issues he had eventually overcome.
I became increasingly uneasy as I struggled to think of how I would approach the issue of rhino horn with him. That the rhino horn trade is illegal is commonly known in Vietnam, yet it doesn’t restrict its use and if anything makes it a seemingly more desirable commodity.
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