Illegal loggers in Vietnam train as jungle tour guides

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PHONG NHA, Vietnam, April 25 (Reuters) – Vietnamese lumberjack-turned-jungle tour guide Ngoc Anh knows the value of trees.

For years he illegally felled them to sell as timber, often working with others to haul 100kg logs out of rapidly thinning forest.

But as extreme rainfall and flooding increasingly devastated his community in the central province of Quang Binh, the 36-year-old learned about the ongoing climate and natural crises and instead turned to the tourism and conservation.

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Today, Ngoc Anh is one of 250 former loggers trained by an adventure tourism company to lead mostly foreign tourists through the jungle and into some of the world’s largest cave systems in Phong National Park. Nha-Ke Bang, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nguyen Ngoc Anh, 36, who was an illegal logger turned forest protector, poses at Phong Nha National Park, Quang Binh province, Vietnam April 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hoang Trung

“Before, every time I saw a big tree, my head would calculate the height of the tree and how to cut it into logs of different sizes,” said Ngoc Anh, perched on a mossy vine thicker than a woman’s arm. nobody.

“But now that I’m in tourism, when I see such a tree, I tell the tour group how precious this tree is because there aren’t many left.”

According to Global Forest Watch, Vietnam lost around 3 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 and 2020 – a 20% decrease over 20 years, mainly due to the raw material sectors. A government crackdown on illegal logging since 2007 has helped slow the rate of deforestation, and the country has joined a recent global commitment to end deforestation by 2030.

Always accompanied by a park ranger, Ngoc Anh and other tour guides help patrol the trails to ward off poachers, remove animal traps and clean up trash.

They do so for less than half of what they earned during their logging days, but hope to earn more as tourism and travel gradually resume.

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Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Andrew Heavens

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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