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October 30, 2013

Getting Women on the Side of Rhinos in Vietnam

Humane Society International

  • A black rhino. Only 4,880 remain. Bob Koons

  • Dr. Telecky with members of the Women's Union. HSI

by Dr. Teresa Telecky

We are in the midst of a rhino poaching crisis, with more than 790 rhinos poached this year in South Africa alone. Poachers are after the animals' horns, which sell for high prices in Asia, where they are believed to be useful as medicine.

HSI has been working with the government of Vietnam to reduce demand for rhino horn in that country. Vietnam is considered to be one of the largest consumers of the substance.

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Spreading the word

In October, we took our campaign to the Vietnam Women’s Union, a move that is expected to result in outreach to a significant number of the 92 million Vietnamese. We started with the 788,000 members of the Hanoi-based branch, who agreed to carry the message to a wider audience. Our wildlife director traveled to Vietnam and spoke to the women at a workshop organized by HSI and the government.

At the workshop, government officials informed participants about the law as it pertains to rhino horn trade, while HSI presented on rhino conservation and trade. The women welcomed the information and brainstormed about what they could do to help us spread the word. We invited them to submit proposals for undertaking rhino horn demand reduction activities and we agreed to work with them on these activities.

Reaching every household

The Vietnam Women’s Union is 13 million members strong and has tremendous outreach ability all the way down to the community level. These women will take the campaign theme—don’t buy or use rhino horn—to their families and neighbors nationwide. They will tailor the messages to their constituents, choosing from among those we mentioned to them:

  • There is no scientific evidence that rhino horn has any medicinal effect.
  • There are other traditional medicines made from herbs that have been scientifically proven to work.
  • Some rhino horns have been pumped with toxins by South African wildlife rangers in a bid to protect rhinos from poachers, and if they use rhino horn they may get sick from these toxins.
  • It is illegal to buy or use rhino horn in Vietnam.
  • Buying or using rhino horn is causing rhinos to be poached and this is leading to the extinction of rhino species.

To help support their arguments, we gave them each our “I’m a Little Rhino” booklet, a factsheet about rhino conservation and trade, and two educational posters.

Educating young people

We also launched a contest for university students to design outreach campaigns; the winner will have his or her campaign implemented. We announced the contest at talks given at four major universities in Hanoi that specialize in law, science, foreign trade and press and communications.

We hope that these and other initiatives will succeed at reducing demand for rhino horn and ensuring a future for rhinos. Help by donating and taking action now.

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