Many businessmen, politicians, doctors and families of patients simultaneously spoke up through a series of interviews titled, “Speak up, protect rhinos!” throughout July, 2016. This was the latest communication activity of the, “Stop using rhino horn” campaign, conducted by CHANGE together with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation which intends to mobilize voices from different communities in society to stop the current illegal rhino horn trade and consumption in Vietnam.
With three main targets: businessmen, politicians, doctors and families of patients, the interview series has clearly illustrated different beliefs and motives in the trade and consumption of rhino horns as well as assisting to clarify the public’s questions and concerns regarding these products.
The campaign started with the belief that owning rhino horn shows power and social status, and that it assists in proving financial capability. Besides this, working in an environment where businessmen often have to approach partners and clients, they may become active or inactive costumers to purchase and use of rhino horns. Due to the aforementioned, this activity has also reached out to influential businessmen, who are major business leaders in Vietnam, to provide their supportive voices and to act as motivation to push other businessmen to commit to saying no to using rhino horn products in particular and wildlife products in general. The supporting businessmen include Mr. Phong Quoc Le – General Director of Binh Dien Fertilizer company, Ms. Mai Thanh Nguyen – Director of BB Beaute’ beauty salon – BB Thanh Mai, Mr. Cuong Quoc Nguyen – Director of USIS company. Having previously been a rhino horn consumer using it to attempt cure the illnesses of his father and grandmother, Mr. Hai Song Tran – General Director of Greenlines DP company – DP Consulting – said: “The fact that my grandmother passed away, even after using many rhino horns and that my father’s illness remains the same means that I personally find that rhino horns don’t have any of the functions the rumours say it has.”
Doctors as well as their patients’ families also shared real life stories about believing in unfounded rumors which encouraged them to buy rhino horns in the hope of curing illness. The truth is, rhino horn is not an elixir. Many prestigious doctors have confirmed that it has no magical effects because the patients themselves who have used it have all passed away. Now, these patients’ families are living proof that the horns do not cure illness, and so they strongly speak up to advise those who believe in the rumors not to waste their money by purchasing rhino horn in vain. Hoping to cure phase 3 cancer for his father, Mr. Thanh Hai Nguyen (living in district 2, HCMC) bought rhino horn after being introduced to its apparent magical effects. He said: “Rhino horn doesn’t have any functions, the patient would benefit from other proven remedies, the money saved by not buying rhino horn can be used for other legitimate forms of treatment. If rhino horn is used the patient will still pass away and the family will lose a large sum of money. It also adversely affects nature and wildlife.”
For conservation efforts to pay off, the participation of the authorities is of paramount importance. This is also the community that the production crew spends the most time interviewing. Even though the rhino is reported to be officially extinct in the wild in Vietnam, this doesn’t stop the greed of rhino horn traders. Instead, they continue to slaughter rhinos for their horns in other parts of Asia and Africa, smuggling the horns into Vietnam to satisfy the needs of the wealthy. Voices from representatives of government agencies directly participating in the prevention and intervention of rhino smuggling cases will be influential in combating consumption by those who are misled yet who continue to assist criminal gangs. Representatives with authority come from Department of Natural Resources and Environment and HCMC Customs Bureau.
Image: Mr. Binh Tuan Le – Deputy Director of Customs Department – Tan Son Nhat Customs Department (right).
This interview series was broadcasted in September and October of 2016 on television channels, online news as well as social media to share the news and video with the hope of reaching out to the public, especially those still having the belief and misguided perception of rhino horn being a medicine or status symbol and who are looking to buy and use them.

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