On November 8, 2015, WildFest finale event was held for the first time in Vietnam at Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, Hanoi as an attempt to fight wildlife crime and raise awareness of illegal consumption of endangered species, especially rhino horn.
WildFest is part of Operation Game Change (OGC) Campaign – an alliance aimed at putting an end to wildlife crime, fostering the rule of law, and protecting animals on the brink of extinction. Main participants in OGC Campaign in Hanoi include three governments: The United States, Vietnam, and South Africa as well as civil society organizations such as Freeland. Known as top consumers of rhino horns, The United States and Vietnam teamed up to collaborate with South Africa, one of the countries with the highest rate of rhino illegal poaching, in stopping cross-border illegal wildlife trade. The collaboration between the government officials and local NGOs shows the great enthusiasm to confirm their commitments.
Designed as a festival outdoor at one of Hanoi’s most beautiful cultural heritage sites: Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, WildFest Hanoi not only introduced Vietnamese antique beauty but also brought about an open space where traditional features were harmoniously blended with the modern innovative spirit of the event, creating a new breeze for the audience. Hence, the event received concern from people from all ages and walks of life.
As the host of the event, Vietnam initiated a wide range of activities in spreading the pledge of WildFest – “Don’t use, Don’t accept, Don’t gift Rhino Horn”. Most of the activities, especially the amateur short film contest, were carried out since March 2015 along with the promotion for WildFest finale night, a closing ceremony for the campaign.
Starting from 4 pm, around the yard of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long there was a long range of kiosks for the workshop of rhino illegal trafficking and the wildlife destruction’s alarming issues. The exhibition of wildlife conservation consisting of youth activities drew attention from many parents with their kids and students in Hanoi such as face painting and “report wildlife crime” apps demonstration.
One of the most attractive activities was “One Million Footprints”, in which the participants would sign and have their footprints on the white fabric to confirm their commitments to stop rhino trafficking.
Paintings and making paper rhinos in origami style were also among the activities that attracted children and students into coming to the event. Each painting or paper rhino contributed a small attempt in raising the awareness of rhino protection in particular and wildlife conservation in general.
As the sunset began, the workshop and exhibition were closed to shift the attention to the stage at the center in front of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long. Parts the show were speeches from representatives of governments and local NGOs in encouraging all citizens to actively take part in preventing wildlife crimes.
However, the finale night was not a mere speech ceremony. It was filled with several musical acts with the attendance from famous celebrities, making the night full of funky energy.
The most wanted for the night was the premiere of the selected films from the amateur short film competition as well as professional films about rhino horn consumption and wildlife conservation. All the audience sat on the big yard of lawn, blending themselves to the nature and enjoyed the showcase of the short films with creative concepts about wildlife. The plight of rhinos being killed for their horns was a wakeup call for all the audience about the alarming level in wildlife poaching and smuggling across Vietnam and all over the world.
Thanks to the student volunteers from different universities in Hanoi, the key message of the event and up-to-date methods to stop wildlife crime were spread among Vietnam young generations.
All in all, WildFest finale night ended successfully with the strong commitments from all the participants in the effort to make a difference, to end wildlife crime, and to save rhino from extinction. There was a strong hope that 2016 would be the year when all these goals would be achieved.
By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam