May 22, 2006
Market Film Samples Attitudes of Young Vietnamese Towards Turtles and Trade
The Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Center (TCC) hosted 62 students from Xuan Mai Forestry College as part of ongoing training activities of the center focused on raising awareness and building interest in turtles and their conservation amongst students. The students were divided into morning and afternoon groups and provided training on identification of Vietnam?s 25 native tortoises and freshwater turtle species. The identification skills of the morning group were tested with three students scoring 100%.The course was instructed by Mr. Bui Dang Phong, manager of the TCC and Douglas Hendrie, Asian Turtle Program Coordinator.
The most interesting aspect of the training course was the use of a new training module aimed at assessing student attitudes about the conservation and trade of turtles. During the afternoon training session, students were shown a short film produced by Bill McCord of the Guangzhou turtle markets. The film vividly illustrates the vast quantities of turtles that were present in the market during the late 1990?s, including many species that are native to Vietnam. Also depicted in the film is the live butchering of several turtles.
Following viewing the film, the students were asked to record their impressions on paper. One of the aims of the exercise was to determine if and how the film might influence the students? attitudes or draw upon their emotions, identifying potential opportunities to use animal welfare concerns to influence public attitudes toward protection and conservation of turtles and other wildlife.
The students were asked to write down at least five thoughts, feelings, or ideas that came to mind. Their comments were then collected and the instructors engaged the group in open discussion about the film using prepared questions to provoke discussion.
Feedback from students clearly showed that the prevailing concern resulting from the film revolved around the large quantity of turtles that were shown being sold openly in the market. Most students (66%) were concerned by the apparent the lack of enforcement or suggested the need for stronger enforcement. More than half the students (55%) also suggested that the actions depicted on the film were ?brutal? or ?sad? indicating that the attitudes of younger people might be more readily influenced by awareness efforts that incorporate animal welfare issues. Only one student in the group commented favorably on the butchering of the large soft-shell shown toward the end of the film stating that the soft-shell was ?slaughtered quickly and professionally.? Students also demonstrated concern over the possibility that some turtle species would become extinct if trade was allowed to continue. Almost half the students thought that in addition to improved enforcement, there was a strong need for greater awareness (44%) amongst the public in order to reduce trade.
Some other interesting comments by students emerging from the attitude sampling:
The Xuan Mai Forestry College training course was carried out by Cuc Phuong Turtle Conservation Center, in cooperation with the Hanoi-based Asian Turtle Conservation Program, a consortium effort to conserve Asia?s turtles by the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Turtle Survival Alliance.
Note on China Markets
The McCord film was produced in the late 1990s, and therefore may not accurately represent the situation today in China?s markets. Although a recent survey in February 2006 showed that markets in Guangzhou were dominated by farmed species, a large numbers of endemic species from Myanmar, as well as Vietnam-natives like Cuora galbinifrons, were still present in reasonable numbers. Moreover, trade seizures by wildlife protection authorities in Vietnam continue to net quantities of turtles being shipped north to the border from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Ms. Le Thi Thanh Thuy