The winners of the Wild Rhino Competition, launched in October 2014 by the Wilderness Foundation, in partnership with Investec Rhino Lifeline and Peace Parks Foundation, have been announced. The competition is part of a demand reduction strategy initiated by the Forever Wild Rhino Conservation Initiative to curb demand for rhino horn in user countries.
15 000 Vietnamese youth from 12 international schools in Ho Chi Minh City were invited to enter the competition, and nearly 1 500 entries were received. The Junior entries comprised either a poem or a picture and the Senior entries an essay on how the youth would educate their friends and family on the plight of the rhino.
The Wild Rhino competition has been supported by Vietnamese popstars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui, who became rhino ambassadors for the Wilderness Foundation after a visit to South Africa in April 2014 to experience to rhino in its natural habitat. These two prominent ambassadors teamed up with the Wilderness Foundation to launch the Wild Rhino Competition to Vietnamese youth. This intervention will result in 22 Vietnamese schoolgoing students from the upper echelons of Vietnamese society being immersed in rhino related matters, allowing them to return home as dedicated and informed ambassadors for the cause.
The 22 winners will be brought to South Africa to attend a five-day traditional wilderness trail in June 2015, facilitated by the Wilderness Leadership School in the iMfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal. They will also be taken to the bomas in the reserve to spend time with the rhino calves orphaned as a result of poaching.
Further activity includes attending workshops where they will be exposed to the challenges facing conservation efforts generally, as well as the full reality and implications of rhino poaching and wildlife crime. Youth from communities surrounding iMfolozi will participate in the workshops to encourage interaction and dialogue with the Vietnamese students.
The challenges facing South Africa with regard to rhino poaching are well-documented with more than 1200 rhino having been poached in 2014 alone. The South African government, parastatals and non-government organisations are working on a number of fronts in an attempt to curb this critical situation. While much attention is given to strengthening the protection of rhino, in situ attempts at demand reduction in user countries have been relatively limited.
“As the poaching threat increases, anti-poaching efforts must be broadened and accelerated. If poaching
continues to escalate at its current rate, rhinos could become extinct in the wild in less than a decade. There are thousands of dedicated, passionate rangers in South Africa and other rhino range states, standing between the rhinos and the poachers – but they need our help. 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.
Through its Rhino Protection Programme, the Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) has made a significant financial contribution to make 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, and this project is a natural fit for the Rhino Protection Programme. By positively shaping the youth’s perceptions about the realities of rhino poaching, and instilling a deeply-ingrained respect for wildlife, they in turn can play an influential role to educate their peers and communities. We are very proud to be associated with a project that has such a collaborative nature – more partnerships like these can make a real difference in the fight against rhino poaching. 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.
The Rhino Protection Programme (RPP) 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 the multi-faceted programme is made possible through funding from the Dutch and Swedish postcode lotteries.
ABOUT THE WILDERNESS FOUNDATION FOREVER WILD RHINO PROTECTION INTIATIVE
The Wilderness Foundation’s Forever Wild Conservation Programme was developed in 2011 as a response to the rhino poaching crisis and has been active through the Rhino Protection Initiative. In 2013 the Programme was expanded to include lion, leopard, elephant, gorilla and great white shark conservation initiatives as they represent key species symptomatic of the challenges facing the environments in which they live.
The initiative primarily provides logistical and operational support for conservation and law enforcement
agencies responsible for rhino security. It is also involved in raising public awareness of the rhino poaching crisis (such as information boards, displays, leaflets, radio and media campaigns) and manages a Rhino Antipoaching tip off line. Other activities include the coordination of anti-poaching training, aerial assistance, vehicle support, intelligence gathering and specialist support, as well as a Rhino survivor fund, Eastern Cape Rhino DNA and tracking device project and a rhino survivor research project in the Kruger National Park.
ABOUT THE WILDERNESS FOUNDATION
The Wilderness Foundation works in many countries from its base in South Africa to protect wildlife and
wilderness in partnership with local communities. Whether it is direct action anti-poaching in the field, large landscape wilderness management, or developing rising young leaders from disadvantaged communities for a career in conservation, the Wilderness Foundation has over 40 years of results.
The Foundation was established in 1972 by conservation pioneer Dr Ian Player, who led the team that saved the white rhino from extinction in the 1960’s, an action-legacy that the Wilderness Foundation continues today, working against wildlife crime and combating the rhino poaching crisis.
The Wilderness Foundation focuses on four main programme areas: Wildlife and Wilderness Conservation, Social Intervention, Leadership & Education, and Advocacy & Awareness. The Wilderness Foundation is also an active partner in the globally-focused “Wilderness Network,” a close-knit and talented group based on the values of: a passion for direct conservation action; respect for all living things; a deep commitment to conservation