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Richard Branson Visits Vietnam to Save Rhinos

Happy World Rhino Day!

On his first-ever visit to Vietnam, Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson recently met with some of the nation’s top business leaders as part of our Stop Using Rhino Horn campaign, which seeks to counter myths of rhino horn’s medicinal benefits as well as to educate the Vietnamese public about the poaching crisis in Africa.

In Ho Chi Minh City, Mr. Branson hosted an intimate dinner organized by several non-governmental organizations including WildAid, African Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society and CHANGE, and in collaboration with Virgin Unite, Nhip Cau Dau Tu magazine and The Reverie Saigon. During the event, business leaders signed a pledge in which they committed to never buy, use or gift rhino horn.

The signed pledge reads as follows: 

We hereby pledge: 

1. To lead by example in developing sustainable and socially responsible business practices.

2. Not to purchase, possess or give as gifts any illegal wildlife products, such as rhino horn.

3. To encourage friends, family and employees never to purchase any illegal wildlife products.

4. To support efforts to conserve Vietnam's rich natural heritage and protect wildlife. 

The wildlife pledge signed by Vietnamese business leaders

With its status symbol allure and alleged medicinal properties, rhino horn is a luxury item in Vietnam, a primary market for horn that’s driving the slaughter of rhinos in Africa.

Mr. Branson writes of the evening: 

Listening to 25 of the country's leading entrepreneurs around the table, I quickly learned how much the issue has already become part of a national conversation - one that has caused great embarrassment for a country of 90 million people that is rapidly entering the global market. But change is difficult to come by, stifled by a lack of interest in conservation issues and also by insufficient enforcement. On the upside, as I learned over dinner, younger Vietnamese seem to understand the seriousness of the problem and no longer wish to be associated with these harmful habits. (Click here to read his full World Rhino Day op-ed via Virgin Unite.)

In addition to reducing consumer demand for rhino horn in Vietnam, the business leaders discussed the importance of persuading South Africa not to legalize the rhino horn trade as some have proposed, and the potential negative impact of introducing synthetic rhino horn into the Vietnamese market, as some American biotechnology companies are now attempting to do.

Pop star Thanh Bui (center) with business leader attendees

Participating in this special dinner were influential business leaders with a passion for social issues, including:

• Ms. Dinh Thi Hoa : Board Chairwoman of Galaxy Group

• Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai Thanh: Board Chairwoman and CEO of REE Corporation

• Mr. David Do: Managing Director of Vietnam Investment Group

• Mr. Tran Hung Huy: Chairman of ACB Bank

• Ms. Truong Hue Van: Board Chairwoman of WMC Group

• Mr. Luong Hoai Nam: Deputy General Director of Thien Minh Group and Managing Director of Hai Au Aviation

• Mr. Pham Tan Nghia: Board Chairman and CEO of VUS

• Mr. Dominic Scriven: Founder and CEO of Dragon Capital

• Mr. Doan Hong Viet, Chairman of DigiWorld

• Mr. Thanh Bui, singer/songwriter, Founder of Soul Corporation

• Mr. Nguyen Quoc Khanh, Chairman of AA Corporation

• Mr. Huynh Huu Hiep, on behalf of Mr. Cao Tien Vi, CEO of Saigon Paper Corporation

• Mr. Nguyen Vu Anh, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development of Techcombank

• Representatives from national and international NGOs, and other business leaders

Stop Using Rhino Horn is a three-year campaign from 2014 to 2016, initiated by WildAid to reduce rhino horn demand in Vietnam — a response to the dramatic decline in the world’s rhino populations in recent years. In partnership with African Wildlife Foundation and CHANGE, and with the support of many partners, the campaign has three primary goals: to raise awareness of the rhino poaching crisis, to support Vietnamese lawmakers in strengthening enforcement efforts, and to measurably reduce demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.  

Poachers killed 1,215 rhinos in South Africa last year, and at least 749 have been killed thus far in 2015. Vietnam has an opportunity to help end the poaching crisis by significantly reducing consumer demand for rhino horn.

Sir Richard Branson with the WildAid Vietnam team