Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui concluded a visit today to witness rhino conservation efforts and the impacts of the poaching crisis in South Africa. The trip was hosted by the Wilderness Foundation in Port Elizabeth as part of a demand reduction strategy of their Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative.
Thu Minh and Thanh Bui are returning to Vietnam and will join the “Stop Using Rhino Horn” campaign to raise awareness of the rhino horn crisis and urge people to stop consuming this product. Together with other prominent celebrities, they join the campaign organized by WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), and the Vietnamese non-governmental organization CHANGE calling for immediate shifts in beliefs and actions to protect the threatened rhino via messages on Vietnamese TV, radio stations, news, magazines, and billboards.
“In Vietnam we have to understand how important it is to protect the environment, wildlife, and our heritage,” said Thu Minh. “The whole world is looking in horror at what we are doing to the rhinos. It has to stop for the sake of the rhinos and for the honor of Vietnam. In the past few days, I have experienced the horror of what we are doing to the rhino, as well as the majestic beauty of this species.”
Thanh Bui further encourages the public to stop wasting their money on the killing of innocent animals for no gain.
“Just as with the drug trade, traditional focus on enforcement in producing countries has not worked - we must address the demand side if we are to save these animals,” said WildAid’s Executive Director, Peter Knights.
“Although 90% plus of ‘rhino horn’ sold in Vietnam is actually buffalo horn or other fakes, even a small amount of use of the real thing can threaten rhinos with extinction, while not helping people’s health,” added Knights. “People need to understand the horror of the problem they create with this superstition.”
South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs recently announced that poachers have already killed 277 of the country’s rhinos so far in 2014, compared to 1,004 in the entirety of 2013 and 13 in 2007.
“Demand reduction is campaign-based and makes use of public service announcements, billboards and video clips, often using well known celebrities to get the message across,” said Wilderness Foundation CEO, Andrew Muir. “The visit and hard work by Thu Minh and Thanh Bui this past weekend will assist us, in collaboration with WildAid and their partners, to produce such messages for distribution in South Africa and Vietnam.”
“When these two stars return to their country and begin campaigning on behalf of rhinos, we hope their courage and compassion will transfer to the people of Vietnam, that they will also choose to become advocates for Africa’s rhinos,” says African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) CEO, Dr. Patrick Bergin. “Education and awareness are key.”
The Wilderness Foundation is working in partnership with WildAid and its partners, the Shamwari Group, Investec Rhino Lifeline, Mantis Collection, and Tusk to implement this demand reduction campaign in Vietnam and South Africa.