Call Vietnam mouse-deer “cheo cheo” and let the humanities save them from extinction

Aisdl Working Papers (2023)
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The rediscovery of the silver-backed chevrotain, an endemic species to Vietnam, in 2019, after almost 30 years of being lost to science, is a remarkable outcome for the global conservation agenda. However, along with the happiness, there is a tremendous concern for the conservation of the species as eating wildmeat, including chevrotain, is deeply rooted in the socio-cultural values of Vietnamese. Meanwhile, conservation plans face multiple obstacles since the species has not been listed in the list of endangered, precious, and rare wildlife prioritized for protection and is still classified by the IUCN as lacking data. Given the limited effectiveness of conservation measures, this essay discusses the determining roles of local actions, community cooperation, and humanistic values oriented toward eco-surplus culture in addressing the global biodiversity conservation agenda, specifically the conservation of the silver-backed chevrotain. Local actions and community cooperation for conservation can be actualized to achieve conservation goals through citizen and community sciences, integration of modern technologies (e.g., Internet, crowdfunding platforms, social media, AI, etc.), and the bonding capability of humanistic values that prioritize environmental healing. Communicating conservation information to the community, especially the children, has to stimulate their thinking and imagination about nature, develop their curiosity and desire to protect wildlife, and eventually build eco-surplus core values in their mindsets. To successfully awaken the humanistic values within the community and incorporate them into conservation endeavors, the conservation message with the name “mouse-deer”, “chevrotain”, or scientific name (Tragulus versicolor) is largely insufficient as they show an unfamiliar feeling. Therefore, we suggest calling the mouse-deer “cheo cheo”, a local name that can create familiarity and closeness, awaken the environmental conscience and humanistic values, and stimulate thinking and imagination. All these factors are essential for conservationists, scientists, and the government to support the community in building the eco-surplus culture.

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Minh-Hoang Nguyen
Phenikaa University


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