Artist posts toenails to embassy in rhino-poaching protest

You’ve got mail, China: toenails.

A Grahamstown artist – fed up with the escalating rhino poaching numbers – has put his protest in the post.

YOUVE GOT NAIL: Artist and academic Mark Wilby is using YouTube and social networks to put out a mass appeal to rhino-poaching objectors to nail them by posting their toenail clippings to the Chinese embassy. Picture: YouTube. Credit: youtube

He’d signed the petitions.

He’d been to the meetings.

But feeling that his well-meaning outrage was doing no good, Mark Wilby clipped off his toenails, slipped them in an envelope and posted them to the Chinese embassy in Pretoria.

And in a YouTube video of his protest, sorry China, he’s calling on fellow South Africans to do the same. At least 467 rhinos have been killed so far this year.

Fuelling the trade is an unscientific belief held in some Asian countries that rhino horn has medicinal qualities. In reality, it’s made of keratin – the same inert protein as your hair, fingernails and toenails.

“But somewhere in the East, people see it differently and we don’t understand that,” says Wilby. “It’s not enough to say rhino horn is useless. We need to find out more about the market, to understand this thing so we can address the demand.”

It’s not the first time nail clippings have been used to raise awareness about rhino poaching.

It’s not even the second.

But Wilby said petitions and bumper stickers – outraged South Africans protesting to fellow outraged South Africans – weren’t talking to the right people.

“I’m not saying the embassy or the Chinese government are complicit,” he says. “But we have to persuade the government to help us understand this business.”

The embassy in Pretoria has previously stated that the Chinese government shares SA’s stance on rhino poaching.

They said they had not yet received any nail mail by yesterday afternoon.

Wilby did include a return address, “with trepidation. Sending strange objects to an embassy is not the coolest thing to do.”