Pupils spread rhino message wide

Rhino ambassador Hoang Dieu An and an English version of her poster. The poster is also available in Vietnamese.
Rhino ambassador Hoang Dieu An and an English version of her poster. The poster is also available in Vietnamese.
Image: Supplied

A team of Vietnamese high school pupils have blitzed their city with a poster campaign calling for an end to consumption of rhino horn.

The Wild Rhino Youth Ambassadors from Ho Chi Minh City, epicentre of the global demand for rhino horn, formulated their campaign after being hosted by the Port Elizabeth-based Wilderness Foundation Africa on a six-day trail and educational workshop in South Africa last year.

Foundation spokeswoman Cheryl Reynolds said the campaign had reached 25 000 pupils after the posters were plastered up across multiple campuses in 11 different schools in the city.

“They were also displayed and discussed at school presentations and fairs, and disseminated through school newsletters.

“Besides that, they were presented to the American Business Chamber in Ho Chi Minh City, and distributed through them and the Australian and European business chambers.”

The posters had also passed through homes and workplaces after the ambassadors took them back to show their parents, she said.

“The campaign has reached a further one million people through posts on social media.”

The demand for rhino horn in Asian countries remained one of the driving forces behind the escalation in rhino poaching in Southern Africa.

“More than 80% of illegally trafficked rhino horn passes through Vietnam either for local use or for export to countries like China,” Reynolds said.

The poster campaign, the formation of the 11-member Wild Rhino Ambassador corps and their visit last year to South Africa’s Mfolozi Game Reserve are part of a comprehensive rhino horn demand-reduction programme.

The programme was devised and is being implemented by the foundation in cooperation with the Stellenbosch-based Peace Parks Foundation, the Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy in Ho Chi Minh City and the UK-based Olsen Animal Trust.

A new group of young Vietnamese rhino ambassadors is set to visit South Africa every second year.

Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador Phan Le Ha Long and an English version of his poster. The poster is also available in Vietnamese.
Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador Phan Le Ha Long and an English version of his poster. The poster is also available in Vietnamese.
Image: Supplier

The overarching goal of the programme was to instill passion for conservation, while motivating these young people not to use rhino horn, Reynolds said.

“In addition, they are encouraged to assist in saving the rhino by becoming vocal ambassadors for the cause in their communities – and the poster campaign is helping them do just that.

“It gives them a platform through which to share their message with their peers, family, friends and a broader Vietnamese audience.”

The rhino ambassadors’s poster campaign follows on their Vietnam Be My Hero awareness drive with fierce but loveable super-hero Rhino Ranger, and presentations and debates at multiple venues from shopping malls to the prestigious Saigon regional youth conference.

The rhino conservation message is set to spread even wider when Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador Hoang Dieu An delivers a scheduled TEDx talk today.

Wilderness Foundation Africa chief operations officer Matthew Norval, who has led his organisation on seven fact-finding missions to Vietnam, said last year status was now the main driver behind demand for the product.

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