K’ Thanh Hoai, who goes by K’ Hoai, grew up hunting animals in the southern Vietnamese province of Dong Nai’s Ta Lai Village. By the age of 14, he already knew all of the forests, mountains, and animals. As an adult, he earned his living hunting wild animals.
“In the day time, I hunted tortoises, iguanas and porcupines, while at night I hunted deer, foxes, muntjac and many others,” K’Thanh Hoai told VietnamNet. “During the rainy season, I used to row a dug-out canoe to the Da Ban stream bordering Lam Dong forests for hunting. I hunted so many wild animals that apart from selling them, I had to bake or dry them as food to eat for periods between seasons.”
This was K’ Hoai’s way of life, until one day he and his brother-in-law saw a long-tailed monkey eating bamboo leaves with her child and friend. He shot the monkey with an arrow, and what followed changed him forever.
“While seeing her mate escaping with the child, she fell down and died,” K’ Hoai recalled. He saw the female monkey’s tears. “At that time, I was very pained by my action. I told my brother-in-law to stop hunting because I thought about how I would feel if someone hunted my wife and my children, and he agreed.”
Ever since seeing the pain in that monkey’s eyes, he vowed to give up hunting and start rescuing animals. In 1996, he worked as a forest ranger at Cat Tien National Park. During his time as a forest ranger, he helped to mobilize ten households in his village to grow more trees, expand forest land, and end hunting. Twelve years later, the park set up the Dao Tien Centre for Endangered Primates Rescue, where K’ Hoai became a rescue worker. He went to Taiwan to learn rescue techniques and has since treated hundreds of primates.
After spending so much time with these magnificent animals, he now recognizes how similar primates are to us. “When I hear a howl or a scream, I know they are jealous in love or angry.” Though he regrets his past actions, he firmly believes animals want to live freely in the forest, and we must work to protect them.
K’ Hoai’s story proves that with a little empathy, we all have the capacity to open our hearts to wild animals and change our habits for the better.
Image source: VNS Photos Viet Thanh/VietnamNet