PICS: Richard Branson offers rhino poachers his finger nails

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Cape Town - An all-star team of Chinese celebrities and global wildlife ambassadors led by Sir Richard Branson have strengthened their anti-rhino poaching campaign against the luxury appeal of rhino horn.

Underlining that it lacks the perceived medicinal benefits and is similar to human hair and nails. 

If you are interested in rhino horn you may as well be chewing on fingernails. 

With the rampant poaching threatening the survival of the African rhino - the activist team has decided to up their game.

Rhino horn is primarily made of keratin, a protein found in human nails and hair.

In recent years, international criminal syndicates who peddle rhino horn in countries like China and Vietnam have marketed the product as the medicinal panacea when ground into powder and ingested.

Uses for the substance have also included a recreational drug, an aphrodisiac and a cancer cure. 

The celebrities in the new Chinese and English language campaign from WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation put to rest such claims and artificial benefits of rhino horn. 

READ: Wild Aid campaigns push price of Ivory into the 'free-fall' zone

“Keratin. That’s all it is. No different or more a medical remedy than your fingernails,” said WildAid ambassador Sir Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group, said of rhino horn.

“So with a dwindling rhino population, why kill off one of our planet’s greatest species for no reason?”

Branson has been joined by Vietnamese-American actress and WildAid Wildlife Champion of the year - Maggie Q, China's top actress - Li Bingbing and other Chinese celebrities such as actor/singer Jing Boran, fashion photographer Chen Man and actor Chen Kun. 

A Vietnamese version of the Nail Biters campaign starring the country's biggest celebrities is currently underway.

A photo posted by WildAid (@wildaid) on

Vietnam is the world’s largest rhino horn market and the focus of a multiyear effort by WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation is to educate consumers and persuade them not to buy, gift or consume rhino horn.

Chinese campaign ads are already on display in Beijing Capital International Airport and seen daily by tens of thousands on an enormous billboard in Chonqing’s Central Square.

Additional space for advertising in  Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen is secured, while PSAs will be broadcasted on several national TV networks and video screens in bullet trains as well as being promoted on Chinese social media networks.

PICS: Prince Harry, the ginger guardian of SA's rhinos

“Rhino horn’s luxury cache among a privileged few is the root cause of the poaching crisis raging in Africa,” said WildAid CEO Peter Knights. “This campaign seeks to deflate rhino horn’s allure and expose it for what it is: fraud.”

WildAid and African Wildlife Foundation launched the “Say No to Rhino Horn” campaign in 2012, in partnership with the Vietnamese nonprofit organization CHANGE to reduce rhino horn demand in China and Vietnam, the world’s leading consumers of rhino horn.

The campaign has three primary goals: raise awareness of the rhino-poaching crisis, support Vietnamese lawmakers in strengthening enforcement efforts and measurably reduce demand for rhino horn. 

“Rhino horn won’t cure cancer or a headache, but the rhino poaching epidemic in Africa does have a cure, and it involves people not buying rhino horn,” said Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO.

The campaign uses strategies from previous WildAid campaigns that have shown measurable results in reducing consumer demand for wildlife products such as shark fin. 

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Studies show the campaign is yielding results in China: According to surveys conducted by an independent research firm, the percentage of those who believe that rhino horn has medicinal effects has dropped by nearly a quarter, from 58% percent in 2012 to 45% percent in 2014.

About half of the Chinese public knows that rhinos are killed for their horns, a 52% percent increase in awareness since 2012.

In September 2015, Sir Richard Branson hosted a dinner in Ho Chi Minh City with some of Vietnam’s top CEOs, all who signed a pledge in which they committed to never buy, use or gift rhino horn.

One positive thought is that young Vietnamese are realising the severity of the problem and "no longer wish to be associated with these harmful habits,” Branson wrote.

In 2014, over 1 200 rhinos were killed in South Africa, which has the highest concentration of the species left on the planet. Early estimates on 2015 poaching numbers indicate that the crisis continues.

Photo credit - WildAid

Photo credit - WildAid

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