American actress and playwright Danai Gurira is calling on the public to stand strong against rhinoceros poaching. The Black Panther star is featured in a series of billboards as part of a campaign that aims to educate millions about the urgent threats these animals face due to poaching and the illegal trade in their horns.
Rhino poaching continues to be a global problem. In South Africa, where corruption is rampant, rhinos are being killed at higher rates today than they were 10 years ago. The horns are often illegally trafficked to places like China, where they are used in traditional Asian medicine, and more recently to Vietnam, where they are falsely believed to treat hangovers and cure cancer.
There is also evidence that rhino horn and other wildlife products are smuggled from Vietnam into China. Despite new wildlife laws in Vietnam that significantly strengthen regulations while stipulating much stiffer penalties, enforcement agencies are still in the process of implementing them.
“Expectations are high for more arrests and prosecutions under these new laws,” says WildAid Chief Program Officer John Baker. “The penalties are daunting and if enforced effectively should serve as a powerful deterrent.”
On Monday Reuters reported that Malaysian officials seized 50 rhinoceros horns worth nearly US $12 million – the largest haul in the country’s history. The air shipment was bound for Vietnam, where WildAid has been running its public awareness campaign since 2014.
“With kudos to the Malaysian authorities for intercepting the smuggled goods, a seizure of 50 rhino horns definitely rings the alarm bells,” says Baker. “While communications campaigns have helped improve public awareness and attitudes on rhino horn dramatically in both China and Vietnam, there is still room for improvement on enforcement.”
A 2016 survey conducted by WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation and CHANGE in Vietnam showed a 66 percent decline from two years prior in the number of people who believe rhino horn has medicinal effects, underlining the potential for changing attitudes and behaviors.
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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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