SAN FRANCISCO (February 10, 2016) — WildAid and the Center for Biological Diversity today formally petitioned the Obama administration to ban the sale and export of so-called “synthetic” rhinoceros horn. Trade in the biologically engineered faux horn could accelerate consumer demand in Asia for illegal wildlife products that has caused rhino poaching rates to skyrocket across southern Africa.
Rhino horn is coveted by some in Vietnam and China as a status symbol and as a panacea for ailments and diseases, from hangovers to cancer. There is no scientific evidence that rhino horn has medicinal value but rhinos in Africa and Asia are gravely imperiled due to demand for their horns. Several populations have already been poached into extinction, while others, such as the northern white rhino, have dwindled to just a few individuals. Experts believe the best way to save rhinos is to reduce consumer demand for rhino horn.
The good news is that history has shown that we can beat this illicit trade: Past public campaigns against rhino horn have previously succeeded in putting pressure on nations to crack down on the trade. For example, in 1994 the Clinton administration imposed unprecedented sanctions against Taiwan for its failure to stop rhino horn sales. The international scrutiny and well-publicized penalties resulted in Taiwan stepping up enforcement against the market, which also was banned in China and other countries. The rhino horn trade collapsed until economic growth in Vietnam, coupled with new rumors of rhino horn’s anti-cancer effects, revived consumer demand.
Since our Thursday launch of the #JointheHerd campaign at YearoftheElephant.org, we've received dozens of emails asking who took the iconic photo of a bull elephant now seen in tens of thousands of #JoinTheHerd photos online.
The photographer is Australian-born Shannon Benson, who gives us the backstory:
I was in an area called the Klaserie, which is part of the greater Kruger region of South Africa. It was an early morning drive, and as the sun was rising and we were considering heading back to camp, this majestic beauty appeared as if from nowhere. He confidently swayed his way toward the vehicle.
It was the largest bull elephant I had seen to date, and I was filled with awe, excitement and admittedly intimidation. This shot was captured just before I couldn't zoom back any further while trying to keep him within frame. After that I simply took some close up shots as he passed right by the Land Cruiser and continued on his way. After that I finally took a breath again!
With recent reports showing that a vast majority of Hong Kong restaurants continue to serve shark fin soup — often with no shark fin alternatives on the menu — protestors led by Hong Kong Shark Foundation and WildAid Hong Kong have stepped up efforts to expose the truth behind the delicacy.
Actors, musicians, authors and athletes "joining the herd" Thursday on social media represent five continents and include Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Yao Ming (former NBA star), Yoko Ono, Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries) & Nikki Reed (The Twilight Saga), Alikiba (Tanzanian music artist), Lang Lang (virtuoso pianist), Maggie Q (Nikita and Scandal), Sir Trevor McDonald (British news presenter), Bo Derek (actress and longtime WildAid ambassador), Kristin Bauer (actress, HBO’s True Blood), Laurie David (American environmental activist), Tony Jaa (Furious 7), Amy Tan (author, The Joy Luck Club), and Li Bingbing (China’s most famous actress).
Launched internationally in both English and Mandarin, the campaign encourages anyone who cares about elephants to #JoinTheHerd by changing their social media profile photo at YearoftheElephant.org or even learn to say the greeting in Chinese. To coincide with the upcoming Chinese New Year, visitors to the website are encouraged to join a cast of celebrities in wishing their social media friends and followers a “Happy Year of the Elephant” — a new twist on welcoming the Chinese Zodiac’s Year of the Monkey on February 8.