Rhino Run Wines

By Jorisna Bonthuys

The rhino’s horn is something that only became a characteristic feature of this animal later in its evolutionary history.

We know from historic records that some prehistoric rhinos looked more like little horses or modern tapirs (animals with long noses that live in tropical forests). Some even had woolly coats!

The diverse number of rhino species that roamed the ancient landscape have now been reduced to just five species today. The white rhino and the black rhino are found in Africa and South Africa is custodian of the largest population.

All of these rhino species, to varying degrees, are basically in big trouble because of population pressures and habitat destruction. They are also hunted by poachers on a big scale, primarily for their horns. The rhino’s horn – a unique, almost peculiar feature used for self-defense – is composed of compressed fibrous keratin. It is a substance also found in human nails and claws and hooves.

Clearly we need to tackle the poachers and organised syndicates who kill our rhinos head-on. But at the same time consumer engagement is necessary to try and change perceptions about using this highly sought after wildlife product. We need multiple approaches, given the magnitude of this complex problem.

Currently the consumer driven demand for its horn, including from wealthy, urban users from Vietnam, is what is driving this majestic species to the brink of extinction.

Challenging perceptions about wildlife products, given the underlying consumer values that underpins it, requires a completely different approach. It will be interesting to see what kind of results the innovative Chi campaign, developed by TRAFFIC in partnership with the social marketing organisation PSI, will have in this regard. If it works, similar efforts should be rolled out in emerging consumer countries like China.

We are not winning this battle yet, if the most recent poaching statistics are anything to go by.