21 May 2013
“Rhino horn is made of the same stuff as human nails. Still want some?” Conservation organisations WWF and TRAFFIC, as part of their campaign against the illegal wildlife trade, are running a series of myth-busting adverts aimed at encouraging Vietnamese citizens to stop buying or consuming rhino horn.
According to the latest figures from South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, 313 rhinos have already been poached in the country this year – more than two per day.
“Innovative strategies are needed to combat this problem, and part of our approach is to address the appeal of rhino horn to the growing Asian consumer market,” WWF South Africa (WWF-SA) rhino coordinator Jo Shaw said in a statement last week.
WWF-SA is supporting the first comprehensive, detailed research into rhino horn consumers in Vietnam in an effort to better understand the complexities of this market and guide future campaigns.
“This will also benefit the implementation of the action plan for rhino conservation signed by the South Africa and Vietnam governments earlier this month,” Shaw said.
The current Vietnamese awareness campaign includes a public service announcement starring local singer My Linh.
The video – click here to watch it on YouTube – includes footage of rhino translocations by the WWF-SA Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, informs people about the composition of rhino horn and urges them not to consume or buy it.
Backing this up, print adverts conceptualised by Ogilvy & Mather Vietnam have been developed depicting a rhino with human hands or feet in place of its horn, conveying the message that rhino horn is made largely of keratin, the same substance that makes up human fingernails and toenails.
“Rhino horn is largely made of keratin and will do nothing to treat cancer or help one’s sexual prowess,” says TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong programme coordinator, Naomi Doak.
“There are traditional medicines that have proven to be effective for treating a variety of ailments and symptoms and have saved millions of lives. Rhino horn is not one of them. Widespread lies, myths and rumours are fuelling demand and use of rhino horn.”
A dramatic recent spike in demand for rhino horn is believed to have been driven by myths related to its healing properties. There is also renewed interest in other non-traditional medicinal uses attributed to rhino horn, for example as hangover cures, sexual stimulants and detoxifiers.
“Although rhino horn remains in the pages of a number of traditional Vietnamese medicine texts, its sale is illegal and it has not been included in the publication of the official pharmacopeia in Vietnam for a number of years,” says WWF-SA.