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June 20, 2017

Saving rhinos through education

Humane Society International

  • Students educating their peers about the issue. Adam Peyman/HSI

  • Against poaching. Adam Peyman/HSI

  • Let them live! Adam Peyman/HSI

  • A painting created to raise awareness. Adam Peyman/HSI

August 2017 will mark the four-year anniversary of Humane Society International’s campaign in cooperation with the Vietnamese government to reduce demand for rhino horn.

So far, the campaign has reached an estimated 37 million people across the country, including primary school and university students, members of the women’s union and businesses. We are now focused on continuing our outreach to high school students to raise their awareness of the plight of rhinos and enlist their help in protecting these animals.

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With only about 29,000 rhinos remaining in the wild, they need all the help they can get. One factor driving poaching is the belief that rhino horns can provide medicinal benefits—a myth that was disproven through scientific studies some 40 years ago. Along with protecting the rhinos where they live, another key aspect of the effort to save them is to reduce demand for their parts and products, which helps to eliminate the market for smugglers and ultimately, poachers. As Viet Nam has been identified as a major destination for rhino horn trafficking, our work with the government is critical to the fight.

Since January, we've supported events in four cities, during which students formed teams and participated in competitions focused on protecting rhinos and urging their fellow classmates, teachers, and communities not to buy or use rhino horn. Nearly 4,000 young people from 10 schools participated. The energy is palpable on these occasions, with everyone eager to show off their erudition, passion for rhino conservation, and talent. Moving theatrical performances, student art contests, dancing, singing, and persuasive speeches are combined with knowledge-quizzing matches in these rhino-themed showdowns, and the winning teams are awarded prizes.

It is truly inspiring to see the youth of Viet Nam expressing their heartfelt concern for rhinos, and their commitment to refusing to buy or use horns will go a long way toward protecting these animals for future generations.

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