ENTABENI GAME RESERVE, SOUTH AFRICA - Rhino conservationists are harnessing Chinese celebrity power in a bid to cut Asian demand for rhino horn, which has caused record slaughters in South Africa over the past six years.
Chinese-American actress Bai Ling has been deployed to South African game reserves as part of an awareness campaign on illegal rhino killings, which look set to break last year's record 668 poachings.
The actress is known for roles in the US television series "Lost" and "Entourage" and films like "Wild Wild West" and "The Crow".
The spate of rhino killings has been triggered by demand for horn in Asia where consumers, especially in China and Vietnam, believe they have medicinal value.
Wealthy businessmen, celebrities and public officials in Vietnam buy rhino horn as a status symbol, according to a study recently released by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Bai, who was born in Chengdu in southwest China, expressed shock at the brutality of the rhino killings.
"I didn't know how badly they were hurt and wounded and treated, and how lonely. And how they're going to die," she told AFP after seeing a video of brutally maimed rhinos.
Poachers shoot bullets or a dart at the rhino, then hack off its horn with machetes, often cutting into the skull while the animal is still conscious.