On Twitter recently, I came across a post telling me about a new theory in the fight against elephant and rhino poaching. The pictures showed that their horns had been dyed a pink color as a result of a detectable dye being placed into them, to prevent poachers from taking the horns through airport security and hopefully to stop the illegal trade early on. I was interested and so decided to read some more about this project, only to learn that it was sadly not as successful as I had originally thought. The dye does not permeate the entire animal horn and is in fact easily removable. Further, the coloration was exaggerated and even those elephant and rhino horns which do display coloration would only be a beacon to poachers and other predators. There isn’t much else which is pink in the savannah, after all. Okay, if this idea didn’t pan out the way the researchers thought it would, what is actually working?
The majority of poached rhino horns are sold to Asia, particularly Vietnam. There it is viewed as a symbol of power and wealth, and is valued primarily on the belief in it medicinal powers. In both traditional and non-traditional medicine, it is used as a method of detoxing the body, and is thought to be able to cure serious illnesses. Rhino horns are made from keratin, though. That’s the same stuff your hair and fingernails are made out of. It has no medicinal properties whatsoever. The Save The Rhino Foundation is working on a campaign in source countries to reduce the demand for rhino horn by educating consumers about the rhino and the truth about their horns.
The Chi campaign was launched in 2014 in Vietnam, a social marketing strategy to introduce the idea that power comes from within, and a rhino horn is unnecessary for good social standing and success. Chi is a Vietnamese word meaning the strength coming from within. Several images were developed and posted on sign boards and billboards throughout major cities, all of which emphasize the idea of power coming from within and not from the possession of Rhino horns. Pamphlets were also distributed on airlines among business class passengers, as the largest customer base is businessmen. Rhino poaching was reaching a peak in 2014, when the Chi campaign began, and has fallen in subsequent years. By 2016, consumption was down by a quarter. This is encouraging news. They have also successfully partnered with organizations such as the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Central Committee of Propaganda and Education. The success of the Chi campaign is a good model for tackling poachers in other areas, too. Stopping illegal trade and the endangerment of target species has to be fought on both ends, in the habitat and on the consumer end through education.
You can learn more about the rhino and the efforts being made to save them here.
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