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.

Rhino Ambassadors from South African and representatives from the U.S Embassy in VietnamPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ Wildlife

Rhino Ambassadors from South African and representatives from the U.S Embassy in Vietnam
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ Wildlife

Rhino Ambassadors from South Africa in the act of fighting against wildlife destructionPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

Rhino Ambassadors from South Africa in the act of fighting against wildlife destruction
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

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.

USA, Vietnam and South Africa are collaborating on Operation Game Change to stop illegal wildlife trade.Photo credit: Freeland (freeland.org)

USA, Vietnam and South Africa are collaborating on Operation Game Change to stop illegal wildlife trade.
Photo credit: Freeland (freeland.org)

USA Ambassador to Vietnam_ Mr. Ted Osius beside the rhino statuePhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

USA Ambassador to Vietnam_ Mr. Ted Osius beside the rhino statue
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

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.

Wildlife front stage in Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, historical symbol of HanoiPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

Wildlife front stage in Imperial Citadel of Thang Long, historical symbol of Hanoi
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

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.

Rhino Ambassador from South Africa calling for the pledge “Don’t use, Don’t accept, Don’t gift Rhino Horn”.Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

Rhino Ambassador from South Africa calling for the pledge “Don’t use, Don’t accept, Don’t gift Rhino Horn”.
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

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.

Face paintingPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

Face painting
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

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.

One Million Footprints activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

One Million Footprints activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Rhino Ambassador from South African signed his name for footprint activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Rhino Ambassador from South African signed his name for footprint activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Vietnamese from all ages took part in footprint activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Vietnamese from all ages took part in footprint activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Foreign friends took part in footprint activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Foreign friends took part in footprint activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A student took part in footprint activity to show her commitmentPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A student took part in footprint activity to show her commitment
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A part of the long white fabric with colorful footprintsPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A part of the long white fabric with colorful footprints
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A kid commits to protecting rhinos with the help from his father and student volunteerPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A kid commits to protecting rhinos with the help from his father and student volunteer
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Student volunteer prepared the paint board for participants in footprint activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Student volunteer prepared the paint board for participants in footprint activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

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.

Rhino painting activity for students.Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Rhino painting activity for students.
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

A student’s painting with slogan “SAVE TE GIAC” (which means “Save rhinos” in English)Photo credit: Manh Thang (news.zing.vn)

A student’s painting with slogan “SAVE TE GIAC” (which means “Save rhinos” in English)
Photo credit: Manh Thang (news.zing.vn)

Making paper rhino in origami style activityPhoto credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Making paper rhino in origami style activity
Photo credit: Nguyen Thu Thao

Display of one million footprints and rhino paitingsPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

Display of one million footprints and rhino paitings
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

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.

Rhino Ambassadors calling for the spirit from the audiencePhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

Rhino Ambassadors calling for the spirit from the audience
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

The youth representatives from South Africa and Vietnam teamed up for a better wildlife conservationPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

The youth representatives from South Africa and Vietnam teamed up for a better wildlife conservation
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/WildFest

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.

 

Music performance at WildFestPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

Music performance at WildFest
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/ WildFest

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.

Student volunteers for WildFestPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

Student volunteers for WildFest
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

Student volunteers for WildFestPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

Student volunteers for WildFest
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

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.

The audience raising their hands to commit in wildlife protectionPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

The audience raising their hands to commit in wildlife protection
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

The audience raising their hands to commit in wildlife protectionPhoto credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

The audience raising their hands to commit in wildlife protection
Photo credit: Operation Game Change/Wildlife

 

By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam

 

References:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.886413271437065.1073741855.732983053446755&type=3

http://www.freeland.org/programs/ogc-wildfest/

http://www.freeland.org/press-releases/vietnam-and-usa-team-up/

http://www.wildfest.org/eng-index.html

http://news.zing.vn/Dai-su-My-tao-dang-ben-tuong-sap-keu-goi-bao-ve-te-giac-post598488.html

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