Hanoi played host to serious monkey business last month as delegates from more than 50 countries and organizations converged on the capital’s Lotte Tower to sign an action plan to try to help some of the world’s most threatened species avoid extinction from poaching.
Prince William, second in line to the British throne, flew over to Hanoi to speak in support of the endangered rhinoceros and elephants. Now runners in Hanoi can stampede like rhinos and perhaps even help save some, at the 2016 Song Hong Half Marathon in Hanoi.
The marathon, which takes place on Sunday, Dec. 11, takes runners across northern Hanoi around Tay Ho on a 21km half marathon, although 10km and 5km runs are also scheduled.
“It started off as a small bunch of guys getting together on a Saturday afternoon, and we decided to organise the event 10 years ago. It just started getting bigger and bigger,” says co-organiser Richard Leech.
All fitness levels are welcome, he adds.
“Some people race… and some people are walking.”
The funds raised by entry fees will go to Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), which aims to combat trafficking of illegal wildlife in the country. Participants can even choose to direct their funds to specific animal species protected by ENV.
The environmental issues tackled by ENV are dire as poaching escalates in Vietnam and abroad to feed growing markets.
Vietnam, where rhinos are extinct and elephants rare in the wild, serves as a global transit point for illegally smuggled wildlife body parts en route to the Asian market.
The country is a primary hub for the illicit trade in ivory, with local criminals acting as middlemen between African poachers and consumers. At least 40 tons of ivory have been seized by Vietnamese customs officials since 2011, with 3.5 tons seized in October alone.
Some of the ivory ends up on the local market, with many Hanoi jewellery stores along Hang Bac street openly selling the precious animal parts — a bracelet of pure ivory can fetch US$400 (VND9 million) at upscale shops alongside more conventional diamonds and rubies.
Rhino horn, although not sold as openly, isn’t hard to find with the right contacts. The shavings are used as pseudo-medicine and a status symbol by a small segment of society in Vietnam, while the horns are used for decoration in China.
Speaking at the Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade on November 17, Deputy Vice-Prime Minister Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, acknowledged the “challenges in enhancing people’s… habits with regards to consuming illegal wildlife products.”
Africa’s elephant population has plummeted since an uptick in poaching that began in the last decade. The total number of elephants has gone down by 111,000 to 415,000 since 2006, while rhino poaching in South Africa increased from 13 dead animals in 2007 to 1,175 in 2015.
Prince William, who spoke at the Lotte Hotel at the conference, said the situation remained grim despite some progress.
“The betting man would still bet on extinction,” he said.
Prospective runners can register at ClickSpace, The Hanoi Bicycle Club or at redriverrunners.com. Participants will receive shirts while supplies last. For more information on ENV, click on envietnam.org