oa South African Journal of Science - Communication on rhino poaching : precautionary lessons about backfires and boomerangs - research

Volume 115 Number 3-4
  • ISSN : 0038-2353
  • E-ISSN: 1996-7489



Rhinoceros (rhino) poaching has become a dominant topic in wildlife management in southern Africa since the poacher onslaught started in 2008. As social concerns about rhino poaching have grown, so have various forms of persuasive communication in attempts to curb, discourage, stigmatise and stop rhino poaching as well as discourage end users. Governmental and conservation agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dedicated to stopping rhino poaching, international organisations, documentary film-makers, television producers, and international figures like Prince William and celebrities like Jackie Chan, DJ Fresh and South African football star Maps Maponyane have tried many different methods to persuade end users, local communities or intermediaries that killing rhinos for their horns is wrong. How effective are such initiatives, particularly given that the demand for rhino horn shows little sign of abating and poached carcasses increased to over 1000 in South Africa by 2014? A reasonable response would be that such campaigns are usually ineffective particularly given that campaigns seldom consider outcomes such as changing or maintaining changed attitudes, or, even more difficult, changed behaviours. The inducements driving rhino poaching are so strong that it may be that no appeals are likely to deter offenders. Traditions of trade, inelasticity of demand and high profit potential may provide large enough incentives to override any persuasive appeals or threats, particularly when past social injustices may give an added sense of justification to poachers.

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