Several young Vietnamese people and a foreigner have come together in a volunteer group called SaSa that aims to safeguard sea creatures along the coast of the central city of Da Nang and neighboring localities.
One day in June 2018, Le Chien, a volunteer of an aquatic life charity organization called One Ocean, was informed that a shark-attacked dolphin was found stranded in a beach in Da Nang.
He and his friends then rushed to the rescue of the mammal, and later named it SaSa.
A few weeks later, Chien and ten other volunteers who love to work for wildlife’s sake founded a group of the same name, tasking themselves with protecting marine creatures in Da Nang and neighboring localities.
The wildlife volunteers now dive into the sea to find problems with local coral reefs and collect garbage stuck there almost on a weekly basis, according to group leader Chien.
They may also rapidly come to the rescue of animals whose lives are threatened by plastic waste and fishing nets.
“It’s during the diving that we realize an awfully disturbing reality caused by rubbish that humans dump at sea,” Chien said.
He added a single fishing net could kill a piece of coral as it may be covered with algae over time, therefore blocking sunlight that will otherwise reach the coral.
Chien is the only member with an official job in wildlife protection while the others are amateur. A member named Minh Thu is an economics graduate and the only foreign member, Rhys, is an American surfer.
The grassroots group was trained in sea diving, animal health care and first aid.
They now rent a building in Da Nang for running a coffee shop where those desiring to protect the sea can gather for discussion.
The facility is expected to showcase creations from recyclable waste as a way to raise public awareness of keeping the natural ecosystem safe.
The group has planned a community-based campaign of collecting trash along a 400-kilometer coastline stretching from the central metropolis to southern Vietnam, Chien said.
SaSa latterly helped two sea animals in trouble but one of them was unlucky at the end.
In the first case, the group quickly responded on residents’ report to see a seriously wounded turtle found along the coast of Hoi An, a city in Da Nang’s neighbor Quang Nam Province.
The reptile was at that time unable to eat anything.
“We named it Chi [which means 'limb' in Vietnamese] because it’s in a pitiful situation, with the front legs completely paralyzed when we took it,” Chien recollected. “We called it that way in the hope that it would recover.”
The group tended the reptile with antibiotics but later had to carry it to a hospital to the surprise of a doctor who gave it medical treatment.
|A man examines a turtle that SaSa transports to a hospital. The animal then dies of injuries. Photo: Le Chien / Tuoi Tre
Doctors found a number of items like plastic straws and a fishing net in the turtle’s stomach but managed to remove only some of them.
The animal died due to injuries, which was quite saddening to SaSa, Chien said.
In late July 2018, the group again received a report that a dolphin was found injured off the coast of Quang Nam.
They first asked people gathering around the mammal to move away.
“The dolphin is intelligent. If humans approach it in the wrong way, it may panick and feel disorientated and charge against rock. The injury would be more serious then,” Chien explained.
The volunteers hurriedly cleaned its wounds and fed it on that pitch-dark rainy night occasionally lit up by lightning, and when dawn just broke they bought the creature horse mackerel, one of dolphins’ favorite types of food.
|A SaSa member helps a dolphin named Mun (Black). Photo: Le Chien / Tuoi Tre
After taking care of the dolphin for nearly 18 hours in water, they released it back to the sea.
They did not forget to keep track of its swimming along the coast for a while to make sure it did not wash ashore.
SaSa named the lucky dolphin Mun, which means black in Vietnamese, to remember the rescue effort during the dark night.