Rhino campaign targets Vietnam

WITH Vietnam being one of the world's largest recipients of legal – and illegal – rhino horn, the Wilderness Foundation has reached out to create awareness in the Asian country about poaching.

The foundation, in partnership with Investec Rhino Lifeline and the Peace Parks Foundation, had launched a competition in Vietnam as part of its Forever Rhino Protection Initiative called the Wild Rhino Competition.

Marketing manager Cheryl Reynolds said the conservation director of the Wilderness Foundation, Matthew Norval, and Shamwari Group security manager Rodney Visser recently visited Ho Chi Minh City to host presentations.

"We had selected 12 schools to enter for the competition but only managed to reach six of them.

"We were able to present to 15000 pupils," Reynolds said. "Vietnam is a key user of rhino horn and we had hoped to influence children who could in turn influence their parents to create awareness of rhino poaching."

The crisis over rhino poaching has been well documented in South Africa, with 1020 rhinos poached this year alone.

Reynolds said the biggest misconception of rhino horn in Vietnam was that it had medicinal benefits, such as curing cancer, fever and impotence.

In April, Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui were hosted by the Shamwari Group to give them an authentic wildlife experience with rhinos.

The visit ended with them becoming ambassadors for antirhino poaching.

"Ho Chi Minh City already had anti-rhino poaching campaigns, but what the children and most people did not realise was that the rhinos were killed in the process of obtaining their horns," Reynolds said.

Wilderness Foundation chief executive Andrew Muir said as poaching increased, anti-poaching efforts should be broadened and accelerated as rhinos could become extinct in less than a decade at present rates of poaching.

Twenty-four Vietnamese schoolchildren selected from the competition will be brought to South Africa to attend a five-day traditional wilderness trail facilitated by the Wilderness Leadership School in KwaZulu-Natal.

Reynolds said the children were selected because they should grow up learning to conserve nature and its animals. - Nomazima Nkosi