The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and WildAid have entered into a strategic partnership whereby the two conservation organizations will jointly develop and conduct a multimedia public awareness campaign in China, one of the countries with the largest demand for rhino horn, to educate people on how the horn is procured illegally by killing rhinos. The partnership and campaign are aimed at dismantling the black market demand for rhino horns, which has led to an alarming rise in rhino poaching in Africa in the past few years.
“Rhino poaching is taking place on African soil, but the crisis doesn’t end in Africa,” said Patrick Bergin, CEO of African Wildlife Foundation. “While real efforts are being made on the ground to halt the poaching, we also need to reach out to those who buy the horn and show them the damaging effects of their actions. This partnership leverages African Wildlife Foundation’s expertise around rhino conservation and WildAid’s network and experience operating in Asia to put an end to the demand for rhino horn.”
This demand has been steadily increasing in the past few years thanks to a growing urban middle class in China—projected to grow by another 250 million in the next 15 years—and the emergence of a new market in Vietnam. As the buying power of these Asian economies has burgeoned, so, too, has rhino poaching. Whereas only 13 rhinos were poached in 2007 in South Africa, 448 were killed in 2011. Currently rhinos are being poached at a rate of almost two a day in Africa.
The AWF/WildAid campaign will develop a series of high-impact public service announcements (PSAs) featuring leading Asian figures in sports, entertainment, and business to generate social pressure against rhino horn consumption. Outreach will be conducted in China, via television broadcasts, online short films, billboards and transit ads, airport advertisements, and an extensive social media campaign. Particular attention will be paid to developing government support for the campaign.
WildAid has previously conducted similar public awareness campaigns in China, using star power from Chinese celebrities such as retired NBA player Yao Ming and action star Jackie Chan to educate the public about shark finning, tiger poaching, and other devastating effects of the unsustainable wildlife trade. The campaigns used the slogan, “When the buying stops, the killing can too.”
“Our campaigns have reached hundreds of millions of Chinese on a repeat basis,” said Peter Knights, WildAid Executive Director. “The rhino campaign will build on this. The partnership with African Wildlife Foundation gives us the chance to also reach Chinese living or working in Africa.”
The campaign will kick off with an online survey that will assess current public awareness in Asia about Africa’s rhino poaching situation.