The World Wildlife Foundation South Africa (WWF-SA) is targeting a new audience in its latest campaign against rhino poaching: affluent Vietnamese businessmen.
The campaign was launched in Vietnam on World Rhino Day, 22 September, with the intention of changing the way urban men in the southeast Asian country perceive rhino horn. Journalists and business leaders were present at the launch in the country’s capital, Hanoi. It will be rolled out through a variety of media, from business magazines to morning radio shows.
Known as the Chi or “Power Comes from Our Will” campaign, the message focuses on the emotional side of rhino horn consumption. Pictures of men in suits are accompanied by slogans such as: “A successful businessman relies on his will and strength of mind. Success comes from opportunities you create, not from a piece of horn.”
In the past, advertisements centred on the plight of the rhino, which did not resonate with consumers.
The Chi campaign is based on research WWF-SA conducted last year. The conservation group interviewed 720 people from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to find out what was driving the demand for rhino horn. It learned that affluent Vietnamese men between the ages of 35 and 50 living in the two cities were the main consumers because they believed it rid the body of toxins, improved business relationships, symbolised good fortune and promoted success, masculinity and luck. From the research results, WWF-SA was able to create a campaign specifically targeting this group of consumers.
It is also seeking to identify and mentor thought leaders and influencers in the community, engage with consumers through social marketing and media, call on the private sector to create a culture of zero tolerance of wildlife consumption, and create a link with other countries where similar activities are taking place.
Collaborating with WWF-SA on the campaign are Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network, and PSI, a social marketing group with expertise in behaviour change.
RHINO’S LIVES TIED TO SOCIAL NORMS IN ASIA
WWF-SA rhino programme manager Jo Shaw said the future of rhinos would not be determined in Africa but rather in Asia. Measures would have to work along the entire supply chain, from rhino to consumer, to stamp out poaching.
It seems as though this chain stretches as far down as the employees in reserves. On Wednesday, 24 September, the Cape Argus daily reported that South African National Parks (SANParks) officials and police had arrested three employees connected to rhino poaching inside the Kruger National Park. This was followed by the discovery of a freshly killed rhino in the Lower Sabie section of the reserve.
Greater Mekong Programme manager Naomi Doak said the campaign could be deemed successful when it changed the social norm. The research also revealed that the popularity of rhino horn had spread by word of mouth. To spread the campaign’s message, Doak said that the conservation bodies needed to tap into the same channels.
The Great Mekong Programme aims to conserve biodiversity in southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern province of Yunnan in China.
DRINK OF MILLIONAIRES
Vietnam’s wealthy pay up to R728 000 a kilogram for rhino horn powder, which they mix in wine and water to drink. The concoctions have become known as the “drink of the millionaires”.
Rosaleen Duffy, a professor of development studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, told German news group Deutsche Welle that consumers thought they were imbibing the energy and power of the rhino when taking the powder.
Traffic also reported in 2012 that rhino horn touts stalked the corridors of hospitals in Vietnam looking for patients with cancer. However, most patients are ignorant of the fact that rhino horn has no medicinal value as it is made of keratin, the same fibrous material found in human fingernails and hair.
As a result of these myths, poaching rhino for their horns has increased from 13 animals in 2007 to 1 004 in 2013. On 11 September, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs said that 769 rhinos had already been killed this year. It is estimated that by the end of the year, that number may reach 1 200.
The increase in rhino poaching coincides with the rise in purchasing power in Asian economies over the last three decades.