Chinese connoisseur speaks out against rhino horn collectables | Updated: 2017-09-24 11:14

A Chinese prestigious collector and connoisseur released a public service advertisement (PSA) on protecting rhinos to call for an end of collectables rooted in killing during a ceremony to mark the World Rhino Day in Beijing on Friday.

Ma Weidu, who recently traveled to South Africa with WildAid to learn about rhino conservation efforts, spoke on his travel experiences and launched his new campaign to eliminate demand for carved rhino horn products in China.

Hosted by National Geographic's Traveler magazine along with the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and WildAid, the "Travel for Earth" event focused on ecotourism, highlighting experiences to see rhinos.

Rhinos around the world are endangered, primarily due to poaching as a result of demand for their horns. Rhino populations have plummeted 95% in the last 40 years. In addition to demand for rhino horn use in medicine, there is also significant demand for collectables carved from rhino horns.

According to a 2013 survey of 1,800 respondents in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, 11% expressed interest in investing in rhino horn collectables. All sales in rhino horn have been illegal in China since 1993, and rhino horn was removed from the Traditional Chinese Medicine handbook. And since 2011 all rhino horn items have been banned from any auction house sales as well.

Chinese connoisseur speaks out against rhino horn collectables

Ma Weidu attends a ceremony to release a PSA show to mark the World Rhino Day in Beijing on Friday. [Photo provided to]

"If we lose rhinos because of poaching driven in part as a demand for rhino horn collectables, this would be a tragedy not only for wildlife but also to China's culture of collectables," noted Steve Blake of WildAid. "This campaign with Ma Weidu will help reduce demand for rhino horn in this key market."

AWF Trustee Gordon Cheng welcomed the campaign and called for more global efforts to stop trade in rhino horn.

"Today marks the new milestone for our Rhino Protection Initiative as we are now going to make changes relating to the fundamental misunderstandings on the demand and usage of rhino horns which have existed for thousands of years. We hope our program can help to convey the right messages for many existing collectors and users, and most importantly for younger generation in Asia and around the world. I will dedicate my life efforts to make this right," Cheng said.

Ma is the premier antique collector and appraiser in China. He is also an esteemed author and opened China's first private museum,Guanfu Museum. In the new PSA, Ma shows the brutal truth behind these beautiful collectables, and that antique collectables should be an extension of culture, not a force of destruction.

Ma noted that "in the course of collecting cultural items, I've realized that though these items are historical, they can have a significant impact on the world today. I have not only pledged to no longer purchase any ivory or rhino horn items, I'm also persistently conveying the message that if we must choose between protecting wildlife or cultural collectables, wildlife is far more important."

He also spoke of his recent trip to South Africa with Investec's "Rhino Lifeline" program and WildAid to view rhino conservation efforts first hand in the country where 80% of the world's rhinos are found. It is likewise, also one of the countries hit worst by rhino poaching. In South Africa, Ma saw rhinos being rehabilitated from poaching injuries and also orphans whose parents were taken by poachers.

"Rhino-based tourism is hugely important for protecting rhinos," said Yu Hui of Traveler magazine. "As one of the flagship wildlife species in Africa, tourism to view them generates revenue for both local communities and conservation efforts."

Ma Weidu's new rhino campaign is a partnership of the African Wildlife Foundation and WildAid, and supported in part by Investec Rhino Lifeline. Its video and print materials will appear on TV, online, airports, and other outdoor media in China beginning in October, 2017.

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