Wildlife crime is decimating wildlife populations worldwide. In Africa iconic wildlife species including elephant, rhino, lion and pangolin are being lost at an alarming rate and threatening the very existence of Africa’s protected areas where ecotourism makes an important contribution to economic growth. The increasing rise in rhino poaching stands at the forefront of this wildlife crime crisis. Currently approximately 4 800 black and 20 000 white rhino are fighting for their survival in the wild, with more than 70% of these rhinos found in South Africa.
If the current poaching rate continues it is possible that this year will see more rhino being killed than are being born, and if this trend continues then it is possible that by 2025 all rhino in the wild could be extinct. The demand for rhino horn in Asian countries remains one of the main driving forces behind the escalation in poaching of rhino in Southern Africa, with more than 80% of illegally trafficked rhino horn passing through Vietnam either for local use or for export to other countries.
In response to this, Wilderness Foundation Africa joined forces with Peace Parks Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust and SOUL Music & Performing Arts Academy to research, develop and implement a youth awareness and engagement campaign aimed at reducing the use of and demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.
The Wild Rhino demand reduction campaign utilizes three separate yet cohesive components to educate and engage Vietnamese youth on the issue of rhino poaching. The overarching goal of these components, namely the Wild Rhino Competition, the Youth Ambassador Awareness and Education Campaign, and the Rhino Ranger Super Hero Campaign, is to incite passion for conservation, whilst motivating these young people not to use rhino horn. In addition, they are encouraged to assist in saving the rhino by becoming vocal ambassadors for the cause in their communities. The demand reduction campaign, which has been active in 11 participating schools in Ho Chi Minh City since the launch of the first Wild Rhino Competition in 2014, has reached about 15 000 Vietnamese youth directly, and nearly 1 million youth indirectly through campaign and youth ambassador social media activities.
Rhino Ranger was introduced to Vietnam on World Rhino Day on 22 September 2016, with the hope that he will be the driving force behind bringing a stop to all the false beliefs around rhino horn.
Through the use of a variety of marketing materials, from face masks and magnets to Rhino Ranger cut-outs and pin-on badges, as well as a comic book, Rhino Ranger is working his way into the hearts of the youth in Vietnam to help save the rhino. Over the past year, Rhino Ranger has visited many of the participating schools of the Wild Rhino campaign to continually spread the message : DON'T USE RHINO HORN. Follow his progress on the Wild Rhino website and social media platforms. www.wildrhino.org