The Wilderness Foundation, as part of their Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative, this past weekend hosted Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui in Port Elizabeth.
Dr Will Fowlds of Investec Rhino Lifeline with Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui.
The visit formed part of a Demand Reduction Strategy developed in order to assist in addressing the rhino poaching crisis by reducing demand for rhino horn in user countries.
The rhino poaching crisis (as well as other wildlife crime) is of national and international significance and affects all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually. The Wilderness Foundation recognizes this and is working in partnership with various organisations to address this issue.
Until 1970 rhino populations worldwide were relatively stable with minimal poaching incidents. Subsequently with the oil price soaring and per capita income in the Yemen increasing seven-fold, elaborately carved rhino-horn dagger handles became a prized symbol of status and wealth. Within a single decade, half the world’s rhino population had disappeared, and all of the rhino species were either threatened with extinction or endangered.
Since then, thanks to various conservation efforts and improved security measures, the black rhino white rhino populations have increased. But these gains are in danger of being reversed by a resurgence of poaching. Now also peddled as a cancer cure, the demand for the horn is rising, along with the price. Contrary to widespread beliefs, the rhinoceros horn has no proven medicinal or aphrodisiac qualities. The horns consist of agglutinated hair or keratin, the same type of protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.
In 2007, South Africa only lost 13 rhino to poaching. This number increased to 83 in 2008, 122 in 2009 and more than doubled in 2010 to 333. In 2011 we lost 448 rhino and in 2012 we thought we reached the turning point at 668. But 2013 was the worst at 1004 rhino killed for their horns.
Andrew Muir, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation states that demand reduction strategies are developed with an aim to reduce the demand for rhino horn (and other wildlife products) in the countries in which they are used. This is achieved through education and awareness about the properties of rhino horn as well as the impact on rhino populations. Demand reduction is seen as complimentary to law enforcement and anti-poaching activities that take place on the ground and in combination are hoped to tackle the rhino poaching crisis.
“Demand reduction is campaign based and makes use of public service announcements, bill boards and video clips, often using well known celebrities to get the message across. The visit and hard work by Thu Minh and Thanh Bui this past weekend will assist us, in collaboration with international conservation NGO Wild Aid, to produce the material for distribution in South Africa and Vietnam in the next few weeks”.
Thu Minh is passionate about saving the rhino. “In Vietnam we have to understand how important it is to protect the environment, wildlife, and our heritage. The whole world is looking in horror at what we are doing to the Rhinos. It has to stop for the sake of the Rhinos and for the honor of Vietnam. In the past few days, I have experienced the horror of what we are doing to the rhino, as well as the majestic beauty of this species”.
Thanh Bui, supporting this plea further encourages the public to stop wasting their money on the killing of innocent animals for no gain.
The Wilderness Foundation is working in partnership with WildAid, the Shamwari Group; Investec Rhino Lifeline, Mantis Collection and Tusk in order to implement this demand reduction campaign in Vietnam and South Africa.