|Buy no rhino: Victoria (second from left) and Vanessa Wiesenmaier (third from left) pose for a photo with young Hanoians. — Photo fbw.vn
by Le Huong
Victoria and Vanessa Wiesenmaier are touring Asia on bicycles, carrying a message to save the dwindling population of rhinos.
Dressed in black and white jumpsuits that have large images of a rhino's head in red, backpacks written "Buy no rhino" in red letters on it tied to the back of their bicycles, with helmets on their heads and broad smiles on their faces, Victoria and Vanessa are touring Asia to draw attention to their cause.
Born in Cape Town, South Africa, but of German origin, Victoria had been a financial controller based in Germany, while Vanessa worked as a fashion buyer in Cape Town. Last year, their love of wildlife saw them leaving everything behind to cycle through Southeast Asia with the message of saving rhinos.
"We both love wildlife. We spent three weeks together in Kenya in 2012," Victoria said.
"The severity of the rhino situation had already hit us then. Today, three rhinos are killed every day in South Africa. Rhino poaching has increased heavily over the last five years. In South Africa, people do a lot of things to protect wildlife, but the demand for rhino is here in Asia."
From Cape Town, they started their adventure from Hong Kong to Singapore, in April this year, to enhance people's awareness of rhino poaching.
They plan to take their mission to China, Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia within seven months.
During their less than two weeks in Viet Nam, they visited several schools, organisations, and embassies to talk about rhinos and their extinction.
"We have been to many beautiful places in Viet Nam," Victoria said, adding that "Vietnamese people should be proud of their nature, rich faunas and floras. There are many rare animals that can be found only in Viet Nam. But, at the same time, the Vietnamese people should be more aware of protecting the environment, especially at tourism sites. We have seen plastic bags everywhere."
While strolling around Cat Ba Island in the northern province of Quang Ninh, they came across a stall displaying lots of dead animals preserved in jars – starfish, sea urchins, sea cucumber, dried sea horses, dried snakes, and even geckos.
"We found that most people in Viet Nam know about rhino horns and are conscious that they are used in their country as medicine," said Victoria.
"Most of them say: "Oh, rhino horn is very expensive and are used by rich people in large cities," she said.
The two sisters visited Thien Duong Bao Son (Bao Son Paradise), a recreational park that has some white rhinos, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, tigers, and other animals in Ha Noi.
They noticed that the horns of two rhinos were shaved at their top side.
"However, what we have found encouraging is that many young Vietnamese are ashamed of what is happening, and they want a different future for their country and are keen for change," Vanessa said.
Victoria and Vanessa are continuing their trip to Laos to raise awareness about the plight of rhinos, while discovering more about their trade and what is really going on out there.
They plan to return to Viet Nam in September for World Rhino Day (September 22).
"We hope to cover more schools then," Victoria said. — VNS