The perilous 1,000-mile journey to save Africa’s endangered black rhinos
28 October 2022
The 22 Vietnamese school-going students, who have just been announced as winners in the Wild Rhino Competition, will visit South Africa in 2015 to experience the plight of the rhino first-hand.
These students, who hail from the upper echelons of Vietnamese society, will be immersed in the world of the rhino during a five-day traditional wilderness trail facilitated by the Wilderness Leadership School in the iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), allowing them to return home as dedicated and informed ambassadors for the cause.
The Wild Rhino Competition was launched in October 2014 by the Wilderness Foundation, in partnership with Investec Rhino Lifeline and Peace Parks Foundation, as part of a strategy aimed at curbing the demand for rhino horn in primary user countries such as Vietnam.
“As the poaching threat increases, anti-poaching efforts must be broadened and accelerated. We believe that the Wild Rhino Competition, which forms the pilot of our planned broader Demand Reduction Campaign, will take us a step further to reducing the demand for rhino horn in a user country,” says Andrew Muir, CEO of the Wilderness Foundation.
The competition is supported by Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui. These two prominent rhino ambassadors teamed up with the Wilderness Foundation to launch the Wild Rhino Competition to 15 000 Vietnamese youth from 12 international schools in Ho Chi Minh City, and nearly 1 500 entries were received. The junior entries comprised either a poem about or a picture of rhino, while the senior students had to submit an essay on how they would educate their friends and family on the plight of the rhino.
Besides attending the wilderness trail, the 22 senior student winners will also spend time with the rhino calves orphaned as a result of poaching, attend workshops about the challenges facing conservation efforts, and be appropriately exposed to the full reality and implications of rhino poaching and wildlife crime.
Peace Parks Foundation’s financial contribution, as part of the Rhino Protection Programme, made the launch and roll-out of the competition possible.
Says Werner Myburgh, CEO of Peace Parks Foundation: “The education of youth in countries that trade and use rhino horn is an essential component of a global demand reduction strategy. By positively shaping the youth’s perceptions about the realities of rhino poaching, and instilling a deeply-ingrained respect for wildlife, they could, in turn, influence and educate their peers and communities. It is our hope that the youth can become the reasoning voice that it is simply socially unacceptable – or better put, not cool – to use rhino horn as a status symbol to the detriment and ultimate demise of this iconic species.”
Rhino Protection Programme
The Rhino Protection Programme is implemented under the auspices of the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, in partnership with South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Peace Parks Foundation. The roll-out of this multi-faceted programme is made possible thanks to funding from the Dutch and Swedish postcode lotteries.