Harold Browning plays the guitar in a café in Hanoi. — VNS Photo Thanh Nga

I met Harold Browning in the late afternoon at a café in Hanoi while he was preparing for a guitar session with his friends ahead of a performance in bars in Tay Ho District.

The 36-year-old is very tall and thin with a friendly smile. He has been a wild animal rescuer in Vietnam for nearly eight years.

The need for wild animal protection and conservation brought Browning from the UK to Vietnam. Now, he works as an animal welfare consultant for about 600 animals at the Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre in Soc Son District, where most of the animals are evidence of trafficking cases.

"I've worked with animals for 30 years. My first job was on my parent's farm when I was six years old. They had 400ha of land. They had 1,200 sheep and 300 cows. Then I experienced many works related to animals," Browning told Việt Nam News.

Every day, it takes Browning about 30 minutes from his home in Tay Ho District to the Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre.

In the morning, Browning often inspects cages. The number of animals is often changed daily, so it is always necessary to update information about care conditions, food and health recovery regime.

Harold Browning arranges logs to create bear climbing. — Photo courtesy of Harold Browning

The centre is being expanded, rearranging the cages to be reasonable. Each cage will be scientifically designed and suitable for each species.

"The Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre has a limited capacity. So a lot of new, amazing enclosures are being built. For example, we have new aviaries and primate enclosures which are huge and exciting. I designed them," Browning said.

According to Browning, working with animals must understand what each species in the wild usually does and what they need. In captivity or rescue, it is necessary to make animals closest to natural life. The general rule is to give animals a choice to self-regulate their behaviour.

A squirrel in its newly furnished enclosure. — Photo courtesy of Harold Browning

Wild animals spend many days being separated from the natural environment, so when they are brought back to the centre, they will be in a separate isolation area to be monitored for 30 days. Then, they will be placed in a suitable cage if they are in good health.

When receiving animals in a state of injury or after unsuitable grouping, they may beat or bite each other; Browning will work with the doctors to take care of the wound and help the animals recover.

Browning was sent to Vietnam by Four Paws in 2015. Here, he and his colleagues founded the Four Paws Viet Foundation. They designed and built the Bear Sanctuary in Ninh Binh Province with a total area of over 900sq.m, including housing facilities with outdoor playgrounds for bears to exercise.

During his three years of working at the Bear Sanctuary, Browning and his colleagues have rescued and cared for 46 bears who were victims of illegal bear bile extraction and body parts. Over time, he became familiar with each bear while helping them return to good health.

Browning said that just looking at the individual bears after being rescued gave him joy and motivation.

Now, Browning also works directly with Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park in central Quang Binh Province and Hoang Lien National Park in northern Lao Cai Province to improve the welfare of rescued animals and is an expert in rescue facilities in Yok Don National Park in the central Highlands province of Dak Lak and Cat Tien National Park in southern Dong Nai Province.

Browning is also a consultant for many zoos in Vietnam.

"Hanoi Zoo has great potential as a city zoo. However, the zoo needs to change before people realise their zoo isn't good enough," Browning said.

Browning also has many upcoming plans, mostly for conservation animals in the rescue centres.

A tiger plays with a scratching post. — Photo courtesy of Harold Browning

The Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre has released some birds, such as white-necked cranes and great hornbills, back into the wild. Browning has worked with experts on birds around the world to jointly support the release process with the appropriate methods for each species according to international standards to maximise the bird's survival rate after re-release.

For his efforts to end the illegal wildlife trade and restore and conserve Vietnam's ecosystems, Browning has been recognised as one of 70 individuals of "Good people, good deeds" of Hanoi City. 

Harold Browning was a care manager for rhinos and ungulates at Longleat Safari Park, the UK, from 2011 – 2014. From 2014 to 2017, he worked as an animal manager for FOUR PAWS Kosovo and deputy director of Four Paws Vietnam. Since 2018, he has worked at Hanoi Wildlife Rescue Centre. 

Source: Vietnam News