Updated: 04/15/2014 03:24 | By Agence France-Presse

Vietnamese pop stars to help save rhinos

Two Vietnamese pop stars have been co-opted into South Africa's campaign to save the rhino so that they can help spread the message in East Asia where demand for rhino horn is huge.

Vietnamese pop stars to help save rhinos

This picture taken on April 12, 2012 shows a woman grinding a rhino horn on a ceramic plate to get rhino horn powder at her home in Hanoi

The two, Thu Minh and Thanh Bui, were hosted by the Wilderness Foundation, a conservation group headquartered in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth and which is at the forefront of saving the rhino.

The celebrities' visit was part of the foundation's Demand Reduction Strategy developed to assist in addressing rhino poaching by reducing demand for rhino horn in user countries which are mostly in East Asia. 

Speaking at a media briefing Monday evening after a tour of one of the game reserves just outside Port Elizabeth, Minh said: "In Vietnam we have to understand how important it is to protect the environment, wildlife and our heritage. 

"The whole world is looking in horror at what we are doing to the rhino. It has to stop for the sake of the rhino and for the honour of Vietnam."

Minh said he had experienced the horror of what was being done to the rhino, as well as to the majestic beauty of this species in the past few days.

Echoing the same sentiments, Bui called on the public to stop "wasting your money on killing innocent rhino for no gain".

Wilderness Foundation chief executive Andrew Muir, said wildlife crime was the fifth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $10 billion annually.

He said his foundation was working in partnership with various other organisations to address the problem. 

The Demand Reduction Strategy is campaign-based and makes use of public service announcements, billboards and video clips often using well known celebrities to get the message across.

"The visit and hard work by Thu Minh and Thanh Bui this past weekend will assist us, in collaboration with international conservation non-governmental organisation Wild Aid to produce the material for distribution in South African and Vietnam in the next few weeks," said Muir. 

Contrary to popular belief the rhino horn has no proven medicinal or aphrodisiac qualities, he said, adding that the horn consists of agglutinated hair or keratin the same type of protein that makes up human hair and fingernails. 

Last year, about 1,004 rhinos were killed in South Africa compared to only 13 in 2007. 

The two celebrities arrived in Port Elizabeth on Friday, and have been visiting game reserves outside the city to see for themselves the effects of poaching. 

They wound up their trip Monday. Other partners supporting the initiative are Investec, Shamwari Group, Rhino Life, Mantis Collection and Tusk.

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