The rhino poaching crisis in South Africa has been deepened by failure to bring middlemen and kingpins to justice.
Many cases have made a mockery of the legal system with repeated delays and dismissals. The result has been tragic. In just a decade, according to government figures, more than 7,912 South African rhinos have been poached from a population of 20,000.
Based on real events and with consultation from the anti-poaching unit for Black Rhino Game Reserve and the neighboring township, “Sides of a Horn” reminds the world that the poaching crisis hasn’t just decimated rhino populations; it’s devastated communities. Two brothers-in-law are divided: one serves on an anti-poaching force, the other lured into poaching to pay for his sick sister’s medicine. It’s a human account of the men and women who are deeply affected by poaching.
In other words, the film is about how poaching steals from us all: our campaign message in Africa. By partnering with actors, musicians, athletes, religious leaders, and business leaders, we seek to build broader public and political support to overcome the poverty and corruption that fuel the illegal wildlife trade.
But poaching will never stop unless we reduce the demand for rhino horn. This year Hong Kong SAR Customs seized a record-breaking 40kg of rhino horns worth about $1 million from two men arriving on a flight from Johannesburg as they were transiting to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Rhino horn is promoted as a purported cancer and hangover cure in Vietnam, but it’s primarily composed of keratin, the same protein found in human hair and fingernails, and has no unique medicinal properties.
WildAid has been working with local NGO CHANGE since 2015 to encourage Vietnamese to stop buying wildlife products. Sir Richard joined us in person in 2015 to reach out to the business community and this year, in celebration of Lunar New Year, influential Buddhist leaders urged Vietnamese to start the new year by saying no to rhino horn, elephant ivory, and pangolin scales. Lifelike statutes of the three species were placed at various temples before Buddhas if begging for protection from poachers.
Celebrities and temple-goers took photos with the statues and shared them on social media, creating a viral movement of more than 360 million impressions, more than 100 articles, and 3.6 million campaign video views. Horn prices in Asia have fallen from $65,000 a kilo to less than $25,000.
There is progress; poaching in South Africa has fallen to 760 from more than a thousand a year, but more is needed to save rhinos from extinction. Through portraits like “Sides of a Horn” and encouraging thoughtful global conversation, we can help prevent more needless deaths - both rhino and human.
The short film Sides of a Horn, written and directed by Toby Wosskow, from Executive Producer Richard Branson, was an international co-production between US companies Broad River Productions, Whirlow Park Pictures and Frame 48, alongside South Africa’s The Televisionaries and YKMD Productions.