September 22nd marks World Rhino Day, and Wilderness Foundation Africa in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation and SOUL Music and Performing Arts Academy launches its superhero Rhino Ranger to cut consumption of rhino horn in Vietnam, the worlds largest recipient of illegal rhino horn from South Africa.
Working with school going Vietnamese youngsters, Wilderness Foundation Africa is collaborating with a generation that will grow up, and be in a position to influence not only their peers but also their parents and family.
“It’s hard to change beliefs that are engrained in Vietnamese culture both old and new overnight, but by tapping into youth culture, we believe we can build awareness and reduce demand which will ultimately prevent rhino from being wiped out .” says Matthew Norval, Chief Operations Officer of Wilderness Foundation Africa.
The super hero character, Rhino Ranger, has been revealed through a series of posts on social media over a number of days, with the comic book itself due to be launched on November 1st in International schools across Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The launches will comprise of a number of activities including having a life size Rhino Ranger mascot handing out materials that support the campaign message. These include paper masks for the younger children and the comic books themselves. “This is all in the run-up to the launch of the next Wild Rhino competition, which forms the basis of the demand reduction campaign, where winners come to South Africa to learn about the rhino’s plight and to then spread the message on their return to Vietnam.” says Norval.
“We are proud to be working in Vietnam,” adds Brad Poole, Programme Manager at Peace Parks Foundation. “We now have 22 Vietnamese Wild Rhino youth ambassadors from 11 International schools in Ho Chi Minh City who have experienced rhino in the wild in South Africa and are an important component of the campaign”.
The campaign is based on the understanding that the threats to wildlife are a universal problem and that the people of Vietnam and South Africa can work together to secure a shared natural heritage.
If the youth of Vietnam adopt the cause against the use of rhino horn, we have the ability to build authentic, credible ambassadors that the Vietnamese people will be influenced by and it allows them to feel like an integral part of the solution.
“By using a team of ambassadors from the Wilderness Foundation Africa’s Wild Rhino campaign within print advertising, posters, online and word of mouth, we can spread the message to prevent the purchase and sale of rhino horn”, says Andrew MacKenzie, MD of Boomtown.
Rhino Ranger, the second element of the campaign uses a comic book format as the platform to tell the story. In keeping with this theme there is always a hero who is central to the storyline who challenges evil and fights off crime.
Rhino Ranger and the Wild Rhino Initiative forms part of a broader five-year rolling implementation strategy aimed at curbing the demand for rhino horn in primary user countries such as Vietnam.