WILD RHINO COMPETITION
“I think that buying rhino horns just to show others that you are rich is unreasonable, It infuriates me that the world has to sacrifice rhinos just for a group of people wanting to basically show off their money.” These are the words of a young Vietnamese girl as written in a prize winning essay in the 2017 Wild Rhino competition.
More and more, the next generation of decision-makers in Vietnam seek to speak up against environmental crimes such as rhino poaching, and a collaboration between Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA), Peace Parks Foundation (PPF), and SOUL Music & Performing Arts Academy (SOUL) in Vietnam, is providing them with educational and social platforms to do just that.
This year’s Wild Rhino competition invited junior students to enter by submitting a poem or a picture. Senior students entered by submitting an essay in which they had to respond to questions such as: “What would you say to stop someone from buying rhino horn?”; “What impact would it have if rhino became extinct?”; “What are the biggest myths about rhino horn, and how can you change it?”; and “How are you going to make a difference?”.
Nearly 1000 entries were received, with 22 junior winners and 11 senior winners announced. The senior winners will visit South Africa in July 2017, where they will spend a week on wilderness walking trails in the iMfolozi Game Reserve, followed by a workshop on the rhino poaching crisis facilitated by experts in conservation. This workshop equips the youngsters to return to Vietnam as dedicated ambassadors for the conservation and protection of rhino. In turn, it provides an opportunity for the campaign partners to learn about the social and scholastic habits of Vietnamese youth, enabling development and implementation of impactful strategies moving forward.
“The stories of the rhinos are ones that connect the past, the present, and the future. Let them be heard.” – Phan le Ha Long (Peter), Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador
In July 2017, 11 young people from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, were brought to South Africa for a life-changing wilderness experience as part of the Wild Rhino Campaign. After the trail, the youth visited a rhino orphanage and also had the opportunity to learn more from leading wildlife crime, rhino veterinary and rhino protection experts during a full day workshop at the Wilderness Leadership School in Durban. The young people were deeply touched by what they saw and learnt, and have returned to Vietnam as Rhino Ambassadors – committed to making a difference in changing the hearts and minds of their communities.
In speaking to the youth recently, they shared that their families and friends were amazed at the stories they had to tell on their return to Vietnam, and absolutely horrified to learn about the violent manner in which rhino were being maimed and killed. Already, many of the rhino horn consumers that they have shared their new-found knowledge and insights with, have been inspired to stop this practice and support the protection of the rhino as an integral part of functioning ecosystems.
Realising the challenge that lies ahead for the next generation of Vietnamese in halting illegal rhino horn trade in their country, the Wild Rhino campaign reaches out to the country’s schools with initiatives that aim to educate, empower, awaken and inspire. This campaign is implemented by Wilderness Foundation Africa, in partnership with Peace Parks Foundation, Olsen Animal Trust, and Soul Music and Performing Arts Academy.
The next phase of the multi-faceted Wild Rhino Campaign will utilize these young rhino ambassadors’ new-found passion and knowledge as the foundation for peer-led rhino awareness campaigns implemented in 11 international schools throughout Ho Chi Minh City.
“Never doubt your ability to make positive changes for the crisis. It will only be too late when we give up.” – Chang Nam (Jay), Wild Rhino Youth Ambassador