A new ad campaign features Sir Richard Branson and a number of Chinese celebrities chewing their nails for a good cause. The goal of the videos is simple: instead of going out and purchasing endangered rhino horn, viewers are encouraged to bite their nails instead. That’s because rhino horn and fingernails are made of the same protein, keratin.

Throughout China and Vietnam, demand for rhino horn is high. Though the horn is, again, indistinguishable from human fingernails and hair on a molecular level, many people still believe it has special medical properties. It’s been used as a treatment for just about everything from snakebites, to headaches, to cancer. The new campaign, lead by conservation groups WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation, aims to educate the public about the true nature of rhino horn and expose the fraud involved in the trade.

The two groups are planning to display billboards in both Chinese and English in Beijing airport, Chonqing’s Central Square, and around the cities of Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen to support the campaign. The videos, including the one featuring Branson, will be broadcast on national TV and on bullet trains, and promoted on Chinese social media. While the current campaign is only rolling out in China for now, a Vietnamese version is in the works, aimed at convincing locals to stop buying and consuming rhino horn.

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Some of the local celebrities slated to appear in the ads are actor Li Bingbing, singer Jing Boran, fashion photographer Chen Man, and actor Chen Kun. Vietnamese-American actress and WildAid global ambassador Maggie Q will also appear in one of the videos.

Related: South African court lifts ban on selling rhino horn

In a blog post for the Virgin website, Branson explains his reasons for participating in the campaign: “I’ve long argued that the illegal wildlife trade must be addressed along the entire supply chain. Strengthening the capabilities of those brave rangers fighting what looks like a losing battle in many of Africa’s national parks is part of the solution, and it has to go hand in hand with better governance, greater accountability, and more effective law enforcement. Yet, supply reduction can only work when we tackle demand at the same time. In other words: only when the buying stops, the killing can, too.”

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It’s going to be interesting to see what effect, if any, the campaign has in its target markets. While efforts to protect rhinos from poaching in Africa are an essential part of the conservation puzzle, it’s ultimately the demand from countries like China and Vietnam that propel the trade. If enough ordinary people realize consuming rhino horn is just as useless as biting their nails, demand would drop, prices (currently estimated to be as high as $60,000 per kilo) would go down, and poachers would no longer have any incentive to hunt and kill endangered rhinos.

Via The Guardian

Images via WildAid