By: Kelli Bender
In Black Panther, Danai Gurira’s fierce warrior character, Okoye, has a special connection with the strong, loyal rhinos of the Wakanda. But Gurira’s devotion to these animals extends beyond the screen.
The Walking Dead star recently teamed up with WildAid to speak out about the catastrophic effects of poaching.
“We’re still losing our rhinos to ruthless poachers, who kill these beautiful animals, just because people want their horns for carvings, jewelry and curses,” Gurira says in one of her new PSAs for WildAid.
The ads are part of the actress’ larger anti-poaching campaign with the environmental organization, called “Poaching Steals From Us All.”
“For as long as I can remember, elephants, rhinos, and countless other wildlife have had their very existence threatened by poaching,” the Zimbabwean-American actress said in a statement. “It was an issue highly magnified in Zimbabwe when I was growing up and the fight to protect the second-largest elephant population in the world, rhinos and other wildlife continues.”
Along with highlighting the frivolous cruelty of poaching, the campaign also celebrates Zimbabwe’s animals and parks, and the heritage, tourism and beauty both bring to the country.
Gurira hopes this campaign, which is running across Africa online and on billboards, has an effect on the next generation of potential conservationists on the continent and across the globe.
“It’s deeply important to me that little boys and girls from my primary school and many others across my country, the region and the continent, now and in generations to come, get to enjoy the majestic creatures that are part of their heritage and that we have been entrusted to protect,” said the award-winning playwright. “Together, we must directly address the core of why poaching exists to begin with, the beliefs and values that must be challenged to drive down the demand.”
This starts with encouraging everyone to stop buying goods made from rhino horns and elephant tusks, since “when the buying stops, the killing can too,” she added. This message is already having an effect, according to WildAid.
The organization reports that “in Vietnam and China … the price of rhino horn had fallen by 70 percent to roughly half the price of gold.” Unfortunately, in the past 40 years, the world has lost 95 percent of its rhinos with poachers killing more than 1,000 rhinos each year in South Africa.
“Wild rhino populations are at critically low levels,” WildAid CEO Peter Knights said in a statement. “It will take all of us working together, from the park rangers and government leaders in Africa to the rhino horn consumers in Asia to end poaching in our lifetimes.”
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to protect wildlife from illegal trade and other imminent threats. While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid primarily works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products such as elephant ivory, rhino horn and shark fin soup. With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid leverages more than $308 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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