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Celebrity Endorsements Might Be the Key to Combating Poaching in Asia, Campaign Shows

International conservation organization WildAid is teaming up with the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, JCDecaux, to help save some of the planet’s most endangered species.

“Partnership for the Wild” aims to reduce public support for the consuming of rhino horns, elephant ivory, and shark fins through a vigorous series of ads and billboards. Celebrities such as Jackie Chan, David Beckham, Lupita Nyong'o, Britain’s Prince William, and businessman Richard Branson, amongst others, have volunteered to appear beside messages condemning the illegal wildlife trade.

With the core message “when the buying stops, the killing can too,” the campaign hopes that by educating consumers about the devastating effects of poaching and the poached items’ lack of medicinal value, demand will decrease. When demand drops, so will the illegal hunting.

WildAid has already seen great success in past efforts. For example, shark fin soup consumption has dropped 80% since Jackie Chan and Yao Ming began appearing in ads against it.  

By the end of the year, the ads will be translated into six languages and appear in more than 10 countries. Six hundred billboards featuring Yao Ming will go up throughout China, including in the Beijing airport. Tanzania will put up billboards this month, and shark protection messages will be promoted in Hong Kong and Thailand. Representatives from the group tells Saigoneer via email that the campaign may expand to include focus on the pangolin, sea turtles, tigers, and lions.

While the particular partnership with JCDecaux will not be implemented in Vietnam, WildAid has partnered with other groups to place billboards and video screens throughout the country including the major airports in Saigon and Hanoi. The group claims they have improved public awareness of rhino horn’s inability to cure disease or cancer by about 70%. They will soon release two 30-minute documentaries: one about rhino horns with Phan Anh and another focused on elephants featuring Pham Huong and Le Hang.

Unfortunately Vietnam remains a key player in the illegal wildlife trade. While the country is not home to rhinos or African elephants, it is a large consumer of ivory thanks to people’s misplaced belief in its medicinal value. Moreover, the country often serves as a pivotal transfer point for trafficked goods ultimately intended for China. Even though the trade of the endangered species parts is illegal, the country has shown an inability or disinterest in enforcing the laws.

[Top photo by Vern Evans via Vern Evans Photos]

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- Prince William Visits Vietnam to Promote Wildlife Conservation, Drinks Coffee

- Vietnamese-Thai Wildlife Kingpin Arrested in Thailand for Smuggling $1m Worth of Rhino Horn