The time of my life - Butterflies of Vietnam
Les Elliott received an Amcor-Earthwatch Global Fellowship in 2007 and travelled to Vietnam to join Dr Vu Van Lien and other volunteers on the expedition, Butterflies of Vietnam.
This project surveying butterflies is situated at Tam Dao National Park, North Vietnam, just 75 kilometres from Hanoi. Dr Vu Van Lien has served as Principal Investigator on the Butterflies of Vietnam project since 2002 and is a researcher with the Vietnam Russia Tropical Centre in Hanoi.
“From the moment I landed in Vietnam and until I left, I was immersed into a country of people who although many live in poverty, are passionate, friendly and always the first ones to smile,” says Les.
Les has been with Amcor Cartons in Christchurch, New Zealand for seven and a half years. He works as a storeman on the afternoon shift working until midnight.
Les is a humble man at heart, passionate about nature, conservation and doing anything possible to enhance this beautiful planet. Since joining Amcor in 2000, he has been a dedicated worker, and spends his spare time helping out with local tree planting initiatives. His desire in taking part in this magical opportunity that was offered to him?? To simply learn and bring something back from the field that he can offer in helping these initiatives back home in New Zealand.
Inspired by Dr Vu and his fellow researchers, Les has had his eyes opened to weird and wonderful creatures of the deep Vietnamese rainforests and witnessed the true passion of real scientists in the field.
“What a fabulous place this is. We have seen big bird wing butterflies - simply wonderful. Lein and Viet our investigators are just great people, they have made us very welcome. It is just a pleasure being amongst these two truly passionate conservationists.”
Since returning from Vietnam he has instigated a Native Tree Planting Day at Akaroa Heritage Park in New Zealand, in conjunction with Clean Up New Zealand week. He pulled together fellow Amcor colleagues and friends to assist him in planting over 200 native trees and cleaning up the reserve.
With no funding from the Vietnamese Government, Dr Vu Van Lien relies on Earthwatch funding volunteers to help with this much needed butterfly research. Thanks to their astounding diversity, high visibility, short life cycles and specialised host-plant requirements, these living bursts of colour provide a window into the health of an ecosystem. That window is desperately needed for Tam Dao National Park, which is struggling against a growing human population and a history of exploitation for timber, wildlife, and slash-and-burn agriculture.
So where to from here?
“It is a wish and a desire of mine to escort a group of friends back with me to Butterflies of Vietnam in the near future. Tam Dao National Park is such an amazing place for an expedition - my experience has left me lasting memories. I will definitely go back there one day.”