Singapore Zoo launches rhinoceros conservation awareness campaign

Singapore Zoo will launch a rhinoceros conservation awareness campaign, titled Rhinos in Trouble: The Hornest Truth, from 20 September to 19 October 2014 to raise awareness about the plight of rhinoceroses in the wild, and is working closely with TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and Wildlife Conservation Society (Vietnam) to stamp out illegal trade of rhino horns.

Held in conjunction with World Rhino Day, which falls on 22 September, the month-long campaign encourages visitors to Singapore Zoo to donate their nail clippings to symbolise their commitment to rhino conservation.

Whilst international trade of rhinoceros horn has been illegal since the 80s, the market is still thriving despite science having proven that rhino horn is only as useful as a medicine as human hair and nails are. In fact, rhino horns are known to be made of keratin, the same material found in our hair and nails.

Recent studies by TRAFFIC and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have revealed that current consumption of products made from rhino horn has gone beyond perceived medicinal purposes. Rhino horn has become a luxury item and a status symbol. With the recent increase in wealthy individuals in Southeast Asia, rhino horn is also being used as a “hangover cure” after excessive alcohol consumption by the affluent.

The year 2013 set a record for rhino poaching in South Africa – home to around 75 per cent of the world's total rhino population, with 1,004 killed. As of 10 September 2014, poachers had already butchered 769 rhinos in the country. If the current trend continues for the rest of 2014, the number of rhinos killed is likely to exceed record set in 2013 by another 100.

Even in Singapore, where the trade of endangered species and animal parts is strictly regulated, there had been cases where its ports were used as transit points. On 10 January 2014, eight pieces of rhinoceros horns weighing a total of about 21.5kg were confiscated at Changi Airport by the Singapore authorities.

With Rhinos in Trouble: The Hornest Truth, Singapore Zoo hopes to raise public awareness and engage Singaporeans to help in the efforts to save the rhinoceros in the wild. Claire Chiang, chairman, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said, “We urge the public to refuse any rhino horn or rhino horn products should they be offered any, and to please inform all their friends and relatives to do the same. If we don’t buy the product, demand will fall, and rhinoceroses will not suffer needless deaths. Together, we have to, and we can, ensure there is a future for these magnificent creatures.”

In a statement, David Seow, secretary general of the Singapore Chinese Druggists Association, appealed to fellow Singaporeans to comply with the Government’s ban on the sale of any rhinoceros products and stressed that there are many alternative medicinal material and products that can replace rhinoceros horns. Members of Singapore Chinese Druggists Association also fully support international conservation agreements and efforts to save the rhinoceros from extinction.

Rhinos in Trouble: The Hornest Truth kick-started with a public seminar on 20 September and will have a series of other activities such as a photo exhibition, a Wild Africa guided tour and even a nail-cutting booth for visitors to make their contributions to supporting rhino conservation.