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Man sends toenails to Chinese embassy to protest rhino poaching (VIDEO)

South African artist Mark Wilby came up with his unusual toenail protest to highlight the killing of South Africa's rhinos for their horns.
Vietnam rhino horn poaching 2012 08 31Enlarge
A man shows how to use the ceramic grinding plate with a piece of rhino horn in Hanoi on April 24, 2012 . (AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Forget petitions and fundraising campaigns. A South African artist has decided to fight the rhino poaching epidemic in his country by sending toenail clippings to the Chinese embassy.

Mark Wilby came up with his unusual toenail protest to highlight the killing of South Africa's rhinos for their horns, which in some Asian countries are believed to have medicinal value as fever reducers and cancer cures.

Rhino horns are made of keratin, the same substance as fingernails, toenails and hair. There is no proof that they have any medicinal properties.

But escalating demand for rhino horns, primarily in Vietnam, has led to a record 455 rhinos killed illegally in South Africa so far this year.

More from GlobalPost: In-depth: Last rhino standing

Wilby, in an act of protest captured on YouTube, clipped off his toenails, stuffed them in an envelope and mailed them to the Chinese embassy in Pretoria, the South African capital.

He encouraged others angry about rhino poaching to do the same.

"Yes, it is disrespectful to the Chinese embassy — but I think that concern pales next to the brutal ignorance and inhumanity being inflicted on the rhinoceros. It may even be too late," Wilby said in an explanation accompanying his video.

It is unclear why Wilby chose to send his toenails to China's embassy in South Africa. In the past few years, Vietnam has been the main market for rhino horns.

The Chinese embassy told Johannesburg's Star newspaper they had not yet received any toenails in the mail. 

More from GlobalPost: Forget cocaine: Rhino horn is the new drug of status


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