Cape Town - The most successful Twitter campaign yet organised in South Africa and one of the biggest of its kind in the world has created a “global conversation” about the rhino’s desperate plight.

Conservation group WWF-SA’s “#iam4rhinos” campaign – designed to highlight the issue of poaching, raise worldwide awareness for the five rhino species and promote World Rhino Day on Sunday – took the social media platform by storm.

The hashtag trended on the South African Twittersphere for at least six days. Last weekend, it also trended briefly at number one worldwide – “a phenomenal accomplishment for a campaign emanating from South Africa”, the group said.

The hashtag set a number of records, including the highest number of tweets cast for a single campaign in South Africa – well over 150 000. The hashtag also made more than 320 million impressions (the number of times it was delivered to Twitter timelines).

The conservation group reported that the virtual world had united behind the campaign, which was also endorsed by a host of national and international sports stars and celebrities, ranging from Gary Player, Bryan Habana, Gareth Cliff and Trevor Noah to Ricky Gervais, Stephen Fry, Kirstie Alley, former rock stars The Who and a number of Bollywood stars, including Abhishek Bachchan.

Boxing legend Lennox Lewis promised to answer any questions directed at him within half an hour that were tagged #iam4rhinos, but the response was so overwhelming he had to promise to return at a later stage to answer those questions he couldn’t get to.

WWF-SA chief executive Dr Morné du Plessis said the group had been “blown away by the groundswell of enthusiasm and encouragement received through #iam4rhinos”.

 

Tweets were cast from 103 countries, including Vietnam – the world’s biggest market for rhino horn.

WWF-SA worked with web and social media company Flow Communications to create the campaign.

“The campaign got people talking about rhinos like never before,” said chief executive Tara Turkington.

l The www.iam4rhinos.com website will remain live. - Cape Argus