Arrow star goes on fighting for rhinos in Vietnam

By Vu Van Viet, Kim Thuy, Vuong Duc Anh   June 1, 2016 | 06:14 pm GMT+7

Paul Blackthorne, an American TV series star has headed to Vietnam since May 19 on a campaign to promote awareness about rhino conservation in a country which consumes up to 90 percent of rhinos poached from Africa.

Rhinos were extinct in Vietnam since 2010 and now the country has rapidly grown into the world’s largest consumer of rhino horn.

"You got some of the most incredible species in the world but you saw the last rhino in 2010, so that should be a lesson. Don’t go make them go extinct everywhere else," Paul said.

According to "Save the rhino" - an international organization that supports endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia, the rhino populations are in crisis, an insatiable demand for their horns is driving rhino poaching levels to unprecedented levels, and if this continues we are predicted to lose all our wild rhinos within the next decade.

During the last three years, more than 3,000 rhinos have been illegally slaughtered in South Africa alone. It is estimated that an average of three rhinos are killed each day. This horrific trend is not only confined to South Africa but being witnessed across the globe, threatening all five of the remaining rhino species.

Asia’s rhino horn trade appears to be linked directly with economic development and increasing levels of disposable income. Over the past decade Vietnam has experienced rapid economic growth, with demand soaring for wildlife products.

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Paul with Vietnamese diva, Hong Nhung. Photo by James Moore.

Rhino horn is very desirable amongst the wealthy classes of Vietnam, where it is considered a symbol of power and wealth. It is also associated with business success and high social standing so in this campaign, Paul is trying to change that perception.

"We want people to perceive that rhino horn in a very different way, not a symbol of status and wealth but a symbol of extortion because people are being conned to spend $6,000 per kilogram on this stuff (the horns) when it does nothing for you. It is also a symbol of terrorism funding, lots of the poaching that takes place is to fund terrorism. It’s also a symbol of extinction because the creature has been around for 55 billion years and now in our generation, so it’s the responsibility of all of us, will be gone in 10 years currently of killing," he said.

In Western countries, rhinos do present something too, but "it’s so prevalent in Vietnam, it’s such a consumer hot spot," he added.

So far, Paul has done a lot of press, lots of television appearances, presentations and met with the government, business leaders, ambassadors, comedians and pop stars to promote the campaign in Vietnam.

The campaign is expected to last for two weeks. Paul hopes that he could come to other countries like Kenya and South Afria in an effort to save rhrinos.

Save the Rhino international is committed to addressing the source of the demand for rhino horn, and reduce consumer behaviour across Southeast Asia.