Prestigious antiques expert and host of a popular online talk show Mr Ma Weidu joined WildAid and Investec Rhino Lifeline in South Africa this month to witness first-hand the threats posed to rhinos, and the measures required to protect them. As founder and director of Beijing’s Guanfu Museum, Mr Ma is a well-known culture scholar, collector and antique connoisseur.
Mr Ma observed wild rhinos in their natural habitat, participated in an anti-poaching demonstration, and encountered rhinos that have been injured or orphaned due to the illegal trade in rhino horn.
“In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would touch a rhino. It’s an incredibly moving experience to see such a powerful animal so completely vulnerable,” Mr Ma said.
South Africa has experienced a spike in rhino poaching since 2008. Last year more than 1,000 were killed for their horns, which are used in medicinal tonics and as status symbols in countries including China and Vietnam.
“It is going to take a long time to change centuries of deep held beliefs and entrenched Chinese culture, but we are committed to this partnership and the important role of telling people in China that rhino horn does not have any magical functions and to stop buying rhino horn,” said Mr Ma.
Upon returning to China, Mr Ma will share his experiences in order to educate antiques collectors and other audiences in the country. This fall, he will dedicate an episode of his popular streaming show to his experiences in South Africa. The program has more than half a million subscribers. Mr Ma will also appear in a television public service announcement in collaboration with WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation.
“Our hope is that through the gravitas of Mr Ma’s message and the extent of his following, we will be able to amplify our plea that when the buying stops, the killing can too,” said Mr Steve Blake of WildAid.
The Investec Rhino Lifeline project was established in 2012 to raise awareness through education, rescue and demand reduction. In 2015, Investec partnered with Wilderness Foundation on a similar educational trip that brought youth ambassadors to Africa from Vietnam, a major consumer country for rhino horn.
“We are pleased to have found passionate partners in both WildAid and Mr Ma Weidu, who are prepared to face the immense task of sharing this significant message that the senseless killing of people and animals needs to stop,” said Ms Tanya Dos Santos, Head of Investec Rhino Lifeline.
Other partners that supported Mr Ma’s visit include the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, Camp Jabulani and Cathay Pacific.
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WildAid is a non-profit organization with a mission to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. 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 $230 million in annual pro-bono media support with a simple message: When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.
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