The Wilderness Foundation said its rhino awareness campaign in Vietnam is gaining traction.

The organisation said the second phase of its awareness campaign was launched this month in 11 international schools throughout Ho Chi Minh City.

It calls on young Vietnamese to be “superheroes and speak out against the use of rhino horn in their country” seen as one of the main sources for poached rhino horns.

“The Vietnam, be my hero campaign is the second phase of the Wild Rhino initiative – presented by Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA) in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and Soul Music and Performing Arts Academy (SOUL) – initially launched in Vietnam in 2014,” the WFA said in a statement.

“Through multimedia marketing channels, competitions and first-hand African wildlife experiences, the Wild Rhino Initiative aims to teach the Vietnamese youth about rhino protection, and motivate them to become ambassadors for the cause,” the Foundation said.

“The people of Vietnam are increasingly demonstrating a revitalised determination to support conservation and environmental reform. With the same inspired outlook, schools in HCMC welcomed the Vietnam, be my hero campaign, as an opportunity to engage the next generation in being part of the solution to environmental care, not only in their own country, but on a global scale.”

“This second phase of the Wild Rhino campaign builds on activities in 2014 and 2015 that saw 15 000 Vietnamese youth from 12 international schools in Ho Chi Minh City introduced to the crisis of rhino poaching and invited to enter the Wild Rhino Competition.”

“Selected as the winners from more than 1500 entries, 22 Vietnamese young people won a trip to South Africa for their first ever rhino experience, and to learn about conservation and species protection first-hand. Inspired by what they saw and learnt, the young people committed themselves as true ambassadors for the cause.”

The CEO of WFA, Dr Andrew Muir, said “it was rewarding to see Vietnamese children of all ages embracing the idea that the rhino should also be a part of their heritage.   There are no rhino left in Vietnam, and it is therefore the responsibility of all Vietnamese to help fight the rhino poaching crisis.  We are proud to be working in Vietnam and are encouraged by the positive response we have received to this campaign.”

The Foundation said their campaign is being supported by famed local musician, Thanh Bui, CEO of SOUL.

“The new Vietnam, be my hero campaign is an incredible opportunity for the Vietnamese people to take responsibility for a world-issue, and for us as a nation, to ‘right’ a devastating ‘wrong’. I believe that we have a chance for redemption and to stop the demand for rhino horn. Vietnam can be the hero of the rhino,” said Bui.

Werner Myburgh, CEO of PPF, highlighted the significance of demand reduction within a multi-faceted approach to solving the rhino poaching crisis: “With a general acceptance on the ground that there is no magic short-term solution to end rhino poaching, we continue to engage in and support activities that address critical challenges along the illegal rhino horn supply chain –  protecting the rhino; disrupting trafficking networks; and reducing demand, with the latter being a major contributing factor to wildlife crime.”

The Wild Rhino Initiative forms part of a broader 5-year rolling implementation strategy aimed at curbing the demand for rhino horn in primary user countries such as Vietnam.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said last week that more than 363 rhino had already been poached in the first four months of the year.