By Tony Carnie
Durban - Two Vietnamese pop singers have been invited to South Africa to watch rhinos in the wilderness, in the hope that they will encourage their countrymen to stop using rhino horn potions for hangover cures and traditional medicine.
Pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui will be hosted by the Wilderness Foundation and the Shamwari private game reserve near Port Elizabeth from April 11 to 14.
The foundation said the visit formed part of a demand reduction strategy to alleviate the rhino poaching crisis by reducing demand for rhino horn in the Far East.
More than 1 000 South African rhino were butchered for their horns by poachers last year, and the latest government statistics suggest another 172 have been killed so far this year.
Vietnam is seen as one of the major drivers of the illegal trade in rhino horns, which is crushed into powder and used by affluent Vietnamese either as an after-party “hang-over cure”, for medicinal use or to buy favour in business deals.
Wilderness Foundation chief executive Andrew Muir said the organisation would also collaborate with the international conservation group Wild Aid to produce demand reduction material for distribution in South Africa and Vietnam to enhance the campaign.
“The aim of the visit is to give Thu Minh and Thanh Bui an authentic wildlife experience with rhino in the wild, to educate them on the rhino poaching issue and introduce them to key people involved in preventing rhino poaching on a daily basis, as well as to produce demand reduction material. This will include public service announcements and billboards.”
Other partners would include the Shamwari Group, Investec Rhino Lifeline and Mantis Collection.