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article imageRhino horn demand in Vietnam falls by over 33 percent in one year

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 17, 2014 in Environment
Ho Chi Minh City - An aggressive public relations campaign in Vietnam aimed at curbing the trade in rhino horn appears to be paying off. A recent poll found that demand for rhino in Vietnam has dropped precipitously — by at least 33 percent in the last year.
As a result of the campaign, only about 2.6 percent of people in this Asian country still continue to purchase rhino horn — a decrease of at least 38 percent, The Guardian reports.
White rhinoceros
White rhinoceros
Chris Eason
Even more fortunately, the Nielsen poll show's there's been a steep 25 percent decline in the number of people who think rhino horn has medicinal value. Made of the same material as fingernails and hair, rhino horn has no medicinal value whatsoever, Save The Rhino notes. Unfortunately, a stubborn or ill-informed 38 percent still believe it can treat diseases such as rheumatism and cancer.
The poll was conducted on behalf of the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Vietnam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Vietnam is a cornerstone for the trade of rhino horn, and that's what prompted the awareness campaign to steer people away from buying and consuming it.
In Africa, demand for rhino horn, especially in China and south-east Asia, is causing rhino populations to fall sharply, The Guardian reports. A record 1,004 rhinos were illegally poached in South Africa, a country that has more rhinos than any other country in the world, per The Guardian. This year, 821 rhinos have been killed.
Poaching has burgeoned rapidly since 2007, when only 13 rhinos were killed. This is due to the fact that the price of rhino horn is soaring — fetching up to $100,000 a kilogram on the black market.
By focusing on dispelling the myth that rhino horn has medicinal value, the public information campaign has targeted Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, through businesses, universities, schools, and women's groups. A book published by HSI called "I'm A Little Rhino" has been distributed to schools.
A wealth of other international efforts has also supported the public campaign. A lot of credit goes to Australian businesswoman Lynn Johnson, who has no previous conservation experience. She has recently raised money aimed towards advertisements that warn beople that rhino horn can be harmful to them and isn't such a great choice as a status symbol.
"The messaging has gone up significantly in Vietnam over the past year, which is fantastic," she said. "Our campaign targets the users directly but overall the amount of information aimed at Vietnamese has increased markedly."
Johnson doesn't have a background in wildlife conservation. Nevertheless, she was able raise the $20,000 she needed to place the ads in prominent Vietnamese newspapers and magazines, according to this article in The Guardian.
Rather than playing to empathy for endangered species, the ads did something a little bit different, by informing Vietnamese people that they risk damaging a business deal, or may even harm their children by giving them tainted rhino horn — the advertisements reference an organization in Africa that injects poison into rhino horns.
Johnson, who is consultant, was shocked after watching a documentary that showed just how serious rhino poaching has become so she hatched a plan to start targeting consumers, per The Guardian. Working with contacts in Melbourne's Vietnamese community, she was able to learn from buyers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi that the standard messages about conservation weren't working.
"The use of rhino horn in Vietnam is more symbolic than for medical purposes," she said. "It's given either as a gift to negotiate business deals or to show that you have a high status in the community.
"People aren't worried about the cost of it and they don't have an affinity for the plight of the rhinos. But we found out they would be worried if the rhino horn had a harmful effect to those they gave it to."
One ad shows a mother feeding her child with the text "It's not worth the risk of giving your child poisoned rhino horn." Another ad shows a business transaction and adds the warming that the rhino horn could cause the recipient to suffer nausea and diarrhoea.
Johnson told The Guardian that she hopes to raise an additional $250,000 on the crowdfunding sight Breakingthebrand.org so that ads can be placed in the airports of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
"There's no indication that the slaughter of rhinos will stop suddenly, but this is about slowing down the consumption," she said.
It's a small, but positive step in the process of saving the world's rhinos.
Save The Rhino notes that there are five species of rhino — the black rhino, the white rhino, the greater one-horned rhino, the Sumatran rhino, and the Javan rhino.
This map illustrates where each of the different species of rhino live--and also shows just how low the numbers for these magnificent creatures are:
This map shows just how precious rhinos are.
This map shows just how precious rhinos are.
Save The Rhino
This shows how many rhinos were poached in South Africa from 2001 until Oct. 14, 2014
This map shows each of the different species of rhino.
This map shows each of the different species of rhino.
Save The Rhino
We have a very long way to go before each species of rhino is adequately protected, but we now know that through aggressive campaigning, rhinos can be saved.
More about rhino horn demand in vietnam, rhino horn, rhino horn demand falls, The guardian
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