CAMPAIGN MATERIAL: Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui watch a vet working with a darted rhino in the Shamwari game reserve in the Eastern Cape at the weekend.

Cape Town - Billboards, video clips and public service announcements featuring anti-poaching messages by celebrities will hit South Africa and Vietnam in the next few weeks as part of a concerted international campaign to reduce the demand for rhino horn.

And two of the celebrities featuring in this campaign – Vietnamese pop stars Thu Minh and Thanh Bui – were hosted by the Wilderness Foundation in the Eastern Cape at the weekend to get personal experience of the animals that are being decimated by poachers for the illegal trade, with its major market in Vietnam.

Thu Minh, 37, is known as the “Queen of Dance-pop in Vietnam” and is also referred to a “Vietnam’s Celine Dion” and “The wind chime of Vietnamese music”.

Thanh Bui, 32, an Australian soul/pop singer of Vietnamese descent – his parents emigrated to Australia as refugees after the Vietnam War – has had three number one hits in Thailand and Indonesia, and two chart-toppers in Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines.

The pair visited the Shamwari game reserve between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown as part of the foundation’s “Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative” which includes a demand reduction strategy aimed at reducing demand for rhino horn in user countries.

Thu Minh is passionate about saving the rhino, according to a foundation media statement about their visit.

“In Vietnam we have to understand how important it is to protect the environment, wildlife and our heritage.

“The whole world is looking in horror at what we are doing to the rhinos,” she was quoted as saying.

Wilderness Foundation chief executive Andrew Muir explained that the demand reduction strategy was based on education and building awareness about the actual properties of rhino horn – it has zero medicinal benefits – as well as the impact of poaching on rhino populations.

The foundation was working with a number of organisations – WildAid, Shamwari Group, Investec Rhino Lifeline, Mantis Collection and Tusk – to implement the demand reduction campaign in Vietnam and South Africa, he said. - Cape Argus

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