All rhino species are critically endangered, except the Southern white rhino, which has recovered from around 50 to over 20,000 individuals since the 1960s. The precipitous decline of African rhinos everywhere outside of South Africa was halted in 1993 by tough action from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which led to the sanctioning of Taiwan by the Clinton Administration and the banning of domestic sales of rhino horn (international trade ban being in place since 1975) in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. This process involved the arrest of rhino horn sellers and a public burning of rhino horn in China and tremendous publicity surrounding the sanctions in Taiwan. Between 1994 and 2008 both Black and Southern
white rhino populations grew steadily.
In 2008 poaching started to rise and last year the world witnessed record levels of rhino poaching in South Africa with the main markets identified as Vietnam and China. In 2014, 1,215 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa, surpassing 2013’s then-record 1,004.
During this time legal trophy hunting of rhinos in South Africa was infiltrated by Vietnamese organized crime. Suddenly a large number of rhino horn “trophies” were exported from South Africa to Vietnam and it appears that this was used to develop new markets in Vietnam, which are now being fed by horns from poaching. In addition, increased Chinese economic activity in Africa contributed to an increase in the apprehension of Chinese smuggling rhino horn.
While tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on studying and protecting rhinos in the wild, since the 1993 interventions only a few hundred thousand dollars has been spent on addressing the underlying demand for rhino horn that drives poaching.
In 2013, we launched a three-year campaign to reduce rhino horn demand in China. Our goal is to use existing methodology, networks, and contacts from our shark fin campaign to:
- Raise awareness in Vietnam and China of the rhino poaching crisis.
- Support Vietnamese lawmakers in banning rhino horn sales and increasing enforcement efforts there and in China.
- Measurably reduce demand for rhino horn in Vietnam and China.
The kick-off featured new public service messages from longtime WildAid Ambassador Yao Ming and actor/director Jiang Wen that were broadcast thousands of times on nearly two dozen TV channels in the first two months of the campaign.
In addition, we developed partnerships with African Wildlife Foundation, CHANGE–Vietnam, and the National Basketball Association. We continue to liaise with the Chinese State Forestry Administration and are encouraged to see them reach out to all Chinese travelling abroad in a message not to buy rhino horn via Chinese cell phone providers.
In 2015, we are continuing to build momentum by creating new messages and extensive street-level and social media campaigns. We have developed new public service messages with actor Jackie Chan, actress Maggie Q, Yao Ming, The Duke of Cambridge (Prince William), and sports icon David Beckham, and are now working on new PSAs, including one featuring actor Andrew Lincoln.