Mission

The core mission of the Rhinose Foundation is to save the remaining rhino by helping to end the demand for rhino horn in Asia. Ultimately, there is no other way to win the Rhino War.

 

Strategy

A South African & Vietnamese governments-led, internationally-coordinated, win the hearts & minds strategy that proactively engages people at a psychological level in order to achieve three key objectives; as opposed to continuing with the same old singularly reactive losing strategy of fruitlessly responding on a purely physical level against poaching and trafficking on the ground. 

 

Objectives

  1. Winning the hearts & minds of the people at the source of the demand in Asia in general, and Vietnam in particular—the Consumers.
  2. Winning the hearts & minds of the people at the source of the supply in Africa in general, and South Africa in particular—the Communities surrounding game reserves.
  3. Winning the hearts & minds of the key stakeholders in rhino-related industries and government departments—the

 

Methods

 

  1. Consumers:

A targeted hearts and minds campaign aimed at the small number of wealthy elite at the source of the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam, shaming consumers with serious  ‘loss of face’ in front of their peers by directly linking their thoughtless ignorance of being duped by spurious myths with criminality, human misery, and shallow self-esteem.

  1. Communities:

A targeted hearts and minds campaign aimed at the impoverished communities at the source of the supply of rhino horn in the areas surrounding game reserves in South Africa, directly associating the protection of rhino (in particular) and neighbouring biodiversity (in general) to higher income, increased employment opportunities, improved healthcare, provision of bursaries, better access to housing, boreholes, water tanks, and a strong general sense of ‘community conservation’ ownership.

  1. Conservationists:

A targeted hearts and minds campaign aimed at the main stakeholders involved in the Rhino War (private rhino owners, game farmers, hunting community, SA Department of Environmental Affairs, conservation NGO’s, etc.) to make it clear that the ultimately the only solution to the Rhino War is a broad-based, combined South African & Vietnamese government-led Rhino Horn Demand Reduction (RHDR) campaign in Vietnam.

 

2006-09 Kruger Park 274

Rhino War status quo

Right now South Africa is losing more than three rhino to poaching every day. Over two a day in the Kruger National Park alone, and another somewhere else in the country. Last year the country lost at least 1,175 rhino. What will 2017 bring?

The ‘tipping point’ has been reached, when the slaughter overtakes the birth and survival rate of rhino calves born in the wild. We are on the slow road to extinction of an iconic animal that has walked the earth for millions years. At the current rate of poaching these majestic, gentle, lumbering giants will probably go extinct in the wild within the next decade or two. On our watch.

 

The Problem

The problem is not the poaching, or the trafficking, which are merely the symptoms of the Rhino War. Nor is the problem the ban on trade in rhino horn, which has always been riddled with loopholes, so there’s never been a complete ban. The real problem is the demand for rhino horn in Asia in general, and Vietnam in particular.

The immediate challenge is to get conservation in general, and South African Conservation in particular, to recognise this fact.

Virtually all of the focus and funding of South Africa’s Rhino War goes to fighting the reactive, physical war against the poaching and trafficking on the ground—the symptoms of the demand. Almost no effort or expense is directed at the only strategy that will ultimately win the Rhino War—a proactive campaign to “win the hearts and minds” of the both the Asian consumers at the source of the demand, and rural African communities at the source of the supply.

 

White rhinoceros

Over and over again, the need to link biodiversity conservation to the needs of all of South Africa’s people has been highlighted as a major concern by conservation organisations world-wide and local environmental authorities. But, it requires real commitment and action on the ground, as opposed to the mere lip service currently being paid by the majority of stakeholders.

Marginalised communities in areas surrounding game reserves see no direct benefit to living with wildlife, and perceive our national parks as predominantly ‘white’ or ‘elitist’ recreational areas.

Wild animals are often considered the ‘enemy’ when they leave park boundaries to kill cattle or raid crops. To a lesser extent wildlife is seen as a source of food and traditional medicines, and such low-key practices of poaching for ‘bush meat’ and ‘muti’ has been an illegal, but largely tolerable practice ever since the establishment of game reserves and national parks in Africa.

In recent years, however, ready access to powerful pesticides has led to mass poisoning of numerous species such as vultures for the ‘muti’ trade. Poaching by snaring has increased dramatically. Support for rhino poachers, who bring money into communities, has soared.

These illegal sources of income need to be redirected away from income by poaching, and replaced by receiving and perceiving a direct personal and communal benefit from wildlife in general, and the rhino in particular.

 

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The Solution

Our solution is a three-pronged hearts and minds strategy as outlined above, and detailed as follows:

 

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Our Work

Locally, the Rhinose Foundation plans to work with leaders of communities in the impoverished rural areas surrounding the Kruger Park other game reserves to establish a direct link in people’s minds between community benefits and the rhino in particular, and wildlife in general.

 

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  1. Consumers: Rhino Horn Demand Reduction in Vietnam (Medium Term: 0 – 5 years)

In the past, numerous Asian countries took turns to drive the demand for rhino horn, which led to the terrible slaughter of African rhino since the 1960’s. One by one, however, these countries ended their consumption and are no longer considered be consumer nations, thanks to internationally-coordinated, government-led Rhino Horn Demand Reduction (RHDR) campaigns

that removed rhino products from their local lists of Traditional Chinese and Asian medicine pharmacopeia, and educated consumers against consumption by clearly exposing the myths and criminal implications associated with rhino horn consumption. This historically proven strategy

was highly effective the following countries, who were all, in turn, once major consumers of rhino horn, but no longer are: -

Early 1970’s:  Japan

Late 1970’s:   South Korea

Early 1980's:  Hong Kong, Singapore and Yemen

Late 1980’s & early 1990’s:  Taiwan (it was Taiwanese demand that decimated Zimbabwe’s rhino)

By the mid 1990’s the poaching had virtually ceased as a result of these campaigns.

Between 1990 and 2007 South Africa lost an average of only 12.3 rhino per year, but all that changed in 2008, when SA lost 83 rhino to poaching; then 122 in 2009; 333 in 2010; 448 in 2011; 668 in 2012; 1,004 in 2013; 1,215 in 2014; and 1,175 in 2015. At least 1,338 rhino were poached across Africa in 2015.

So, what happened? In Vietnam, which had not been a consumer of rhino horn before then, an urban legend arose around 2006/7 that some government official had been cured of cancer by drinking an infusion of powdered rhino horn over a period of time. This person never existed, of course, but the myth drove demand and suddenly South Africa’s rhino started being killed in annually increasing numbers as consumption increased, leading to the current slaughter.

This myth has since evolved into rhino horn being a means of cleansing the body of the side effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Now the myth has morphed into a general detoxicant for the blood and organs—and especially to purify the body of the side-effects of too much alcohol after a big night out. As a result, it has become an expensive status symbol health tonic, with rhino horn fetching over USD65,000 a kilogram in Vietnam, which only the wealthy elite can afford.

This wealthy elite—some 10,000 to 20,000 people—constitute less than a fraction of a percent of the total Vietnamese population of 92 million. No one else there is interested in rhino horn, or could even afford it if they were.

These beliefs of the medicinal and health qualities of rhino horn are brand new myths in Vietnam—just several years old—and as such, are relatively easy to debunk. But this can only be achieved through a properly coordinated, SA-led Rhino Horn Demand Reduction campaign in Vietnam and—China, where the demand for rhino horn is just starting up. Imagine a scenario where 1.3 billion Chinese decide they all want rhino horn?

To this end we have been working with famous Vietnamese celebrities, influential media figures and NGO’s since our first pioneering delegation to South Africa and the Kruger Park in 2013, who return home to engage with the Vietnamese public against the consumption of rhino horn there.

  1. Communities: Directly linking conservation to benefits (Long Term: 0 – infinity)

 Locally, the Rhinose Foundation plans to work with leaders of communities in the impoverished rural areas surrounding the Kruger Park other game reserves to establish a direct link in people’s minds between community benefits and the rhino in particular, and wildlife in general.

This is about helping people to help themselves by raising funds for much needed community improvements and benefits such as boreholes, water towers, school upgrades, desks, books, stationery, computers, printers, clinic upgrades, bursaries for training and tertiary education in wildlife, conservation and hospitality industry-related careers, among many other things.

Basically, all things good for the community sourced through a wide range of initiatives in partnership with CNA, SANParks Honorary Rangers and numerous other participants are directly attributed to the rhino. Community members become Rhinose Rangers, led by community organisation, leaders and retired SANParks field rangers as elders. Everything gained by the communities in this manner is co-branded with the Rhinose Ranger CARE (Community Action for Rhino & Environment) logo, directly linking benefits to the symbolic rhino totem of Africa.

Community elders and storytellers drawn from the ranks of retired SANParks field rangers reinforce the tradition of the rhino being the revered symbol of African clan totem culture that binds communities together. Every clan is bonded to a particular animal, bird, or insect as their symbolic totem, which they revere and would never harm, consume, or disrespect in any way. Through awareness and mutual respect for one another’s’ totems, and the interconnection between each in Nature, communities are symbiotically linked to the biodiversity around them.

The rhino was held in such awe and reverence that no one clan dared to claim it as their totem, as it was the sacred animal that united all peoples. It was believed that killing a rhino would result in a curse on the killer of this the most sacred of the big animals, which would extend to their wives and children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, shaming the entire community. 

  1. Conservationists: a unified SA alliance in support of RHDR (Short Term: 0 – 1 year)

South Africa’s pro-trade lobby must be made to understand that even if they don’t agree with the ban on trade in rhino horn, the overwhelming majority of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species) member countries would not have allowed the legalisation of the trade at CoP17 (17th Convention of the Parties, Johannesburg, 24 Sep – 5 Oct 2016) if it came to a vote. For this reason the SA cabinet decided not to call for the legalisation of trade in rhino horn this year.

By all accounts, however, the SA DEA seems set on a legalised trade agenda at the following CoP18 in 2019, once the planned regulatory and policing controls are put in place by the SA government.

Apart from the fact that such a proposal will be soundly defeated by a large margin (see reasons given in another document) the most damaging outcome will be that SA will waste yet another three long years in pursuit of a lost cause (trade), as more and more rhino continue to die while South African Conservation squabbles over the bitterly divisive and damaging No Trade vs Pro Trade debate.

Where it comes to the CITES vote in 2019, if SA stupidly decides to push for the legalisation of the trade in rhino horn it will require a two-thirds majority to succeed. This means that they will have to convince 121 of the 181 CITES member states to agree. It’s not going to happen for all the reasons given in another document. In fact SA will be lucky to win even 30 votes in support.

Most pro-trade organisations openly acknowledge this fact, yet continue to blindly lobby for this lost cause driven mainly by a short-sighted desire short-term monetary gain, in the hope that they will somehow change world conservation opinion, regardless of the negative consequences this will have on the world’s remaining rhino populations, let alone South Africa’s reputation.

No pro-trader would ever state that they are against the concept of Rhino Horn Demand Reduction, as to oppose ending the consumption of rhino horn would be indefensible on every ethical and moral level imaginable, yet they continue to lend the concept no support because RHDR and any legalised trade are clearly a contradiction in terms and obviously mutually exclusive of one another.

Support for RHDR, however, must be the starting point that all conservation stakeholders find common ground to finally agree on. The logical ramification of South Africa standing together on actively ending the consumption of rhino horn is the obvious fact that an effective RHDR campaign cannot work in parallel with any legalised trade whatsoever, because how does one say:

“Rhino horn has no medicinal benefits whatsoever, and does not cure anything, so please stop the trafficking; however, please allow us to sell it to you anyway.”

Legalising the trade in rhino horn would remove the criminal stigma that its consumption presently holds, endorse medical myths, encourage it’s marketing for fake cures, promote it’s consumption, provide a small legal smokescreen under cover of which a far larger illegal trade would thrive, and drive an explosion in demand that could never be satisfied by a few thousand privately-owned rhino, let alone controlled—as seen in the ivory and abalone trades, etc.

“The Rhino War will not be won in Africa by Africans alone.

It can ultimately only be won in Asia by Asians—and by the Vietnamese in particular,

Who will themselves reduce and eventually end the demand for rhino horn at home.