Demand reduction is vital to the survival of rhino in the wild. Wildlife crime is decimating many of Africa’s iconic species. Rhinos have suffered the most severe effects of this illegal trade. Fuelled by the demand for rhino horn products in specifically Vietnam and other Asian countries, the rhino poaching crisis has pushed these majestic creatures alarmingly close to extinction. South Africa – home to more than 80% of the world’s remaining wild rhino – is utilising all available resources to keep the rhino safe, and bring to justice the ruthless criminal syndicates responsible for these illegal activities. However, as long as there is a demand – which means there are people in the world who believe that rhino horn holds value, and will pay for the horn – wildlife criminals will continue to poach rhino. As part of a multifaceted approach to the poaching crisis, demand reduction initiatives are being launched in primary consumer countries with the aim of educating consumers of rhino horn on the realities of the situation, so as to affect attitudes, change behaviour, and ultimately – stop the demand.
Many of the people who still buy rhino horn do so because they don’t have the correct facts about the horn, how it is obtained, and the devastating impact it is having on the conservation of rhino in Africa and Asia. Futhermore, as many adults are already set in the ways, and the senior generation continues to embrace their beliefs, imprinting on young people hold the most potential for affecting social change in Vietnam. Being the next generation of decision-makers, the Vietnamese youth hold the key to ending the use of rhino horn in their country. With this in mind the Wild Rhino Demand Reduction campaign uses, multimedia marketing channels, competitions and first-hand African wildlife experiences to engage and educate young Vietnamese students. The campaign also aims to inspire these young people to become true Ambassadors for the cause – bringing the campaign to life through them, and dismantling the myths and false beliefs that surround the use of rhino horn products amongst their communities and peers.
“Nature has been given to us for free. It is precious and it is our responsibility and duty to care for it. Everything in the wilderness is interconnected and it forms our ecosystem. If we lose the rhinos now, tomorrow it will be the elephants, and the next day, the leopards. Then, we will not have much of our beautiful nature left. It is not tomorrow that we must act, but it is today. Tomorrow will be too late already.” These are words of Nguyen Ha Chi (Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador) and Sophie Hoang from the Canadian International School in Ho Chi Minh City.
Newly appointed Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador, Phan le Ha Long from The American School (TAS), recently took part in a wilderness trail in the iMfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa. On returning home, Peter produced a video in which he shares his emotional journey. Peter not only tells the audience about the amazing experience that he and his fellow scholars had in South Africa, but also the inspiring lesson they all learned : that every animal on the planet, including humans and rhino, all share the same breath. Below is the link to Peter’s video, entitled “Breath”
“The stories of the rhinos are ones that connect the past, the present, and the future. Let them be heard.” – Phan le Ha Long (Peter), Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador
In July 2017, 11 young people from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, were brought to South Africa for a life-changing wilderness experience as part of the Wild Rhino Campaign. After the trail, the youth visited a rhino orphanage and also had the opportunity to learn more from leading wildlife crime, rhino veterinary and rhino protection experts during a full day workshop at the Wilderness Leadership School in Durban. The young people were deeply touched by what they saw and learnt, and have returned to Vietnam as Rhino Ambassadors – committed to making a difference in changing the hearts and minds of their communities.
In speaking to the youth recently, they shared that their families and friends were amazed at the stories they had to tell on their return to Vietnam, and absolutely horrified to learn about the violent manner in which rhino were being maimed and killed. Already, many of the rhino horn consumers that they have shared their new-found knowledge and insights with, have been inspired to stop this practice and support the protection of the rhino as an integral part of functioning ecosystems.
Realising the challenge that lies ahead for the next generation of Vietnamese in halting illegal rhino horn trade in their country, the Wild Rhino campaign reaches out to the country’s schools with initiatives that aim to educate, empower, awaken and inspire. This campaign is implemented by Wilderness Foundation Africa, in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust, and Soul Music and Performing Arts Academy.
The next phase of the multi-faceted Wild Rhino Campaign will utilize these young rhino ambassadors’ new-found passion and knowledge as the foundation for peer-led rhino awareness campaigns implemented in 11 international schools throughout Ho Chi Minh City.
“Never doubt your ability to make positive changes for the crisis. It will only be too late when we give up.” – Chang Nam (Jay), Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador