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Children Accused of Being Witches; Mass Rapes in DRC

Aired August 26, 2010 - 16:00:00   ET


MAX FOSTER, HOST: It's a story that has many of you sounding off in anger -- children accused of being witches, abandoned, abused or worse. Tonight, we continue our coverage with a look at the shocking role of local churches in this practice. We hear what you have to say about it and let you know how you can make a difference.

If you're talking about the world's big stories, on CNN, this is the show that connects the world.

Good evening.

I'm Max Foster in London.

Rarely is a story as likely to touch you as this one can. Last night, CNN's Christian Purefoy brought us the story of children as young as five abandoned on Nigeria's roadsides by their own families on accusations of witchcraft. This little boy's name is Godswill. And we're told he'd been left there for three days.

We also met Sam Ikpe-Itauma who -- who runs the orphanage who tries to rescue these kids. Than says he believes that there are thousands of children like Godswill just in this part of Nigeria alone.


SAM IKPE-ITAUMA, CHILD'S RIGHTS & REHABILITATION NETWORK: Well, if a child is said to be a witch, to possess with a certain spiritual sphere capable of making that child to transform into like cats, snakes, vipers, a type of (INAUDIBLE) like the killing of people, bringing about diseases, misfortune in the family.


FOSTER: You can watch the first half of Christian's story online, read his blog and have your say, as well. Let us know what you think. It's all at

So far, hundreds and hundreds of you have done just that. And as we read through them, we found quite a debate developing. It came down to religion and whether or not it's to blame.

Sole40 writes: "There is nothing more evil than organized religion. Religion was created with the sole objective of taking advantage of people by means of the fear of God."

But another reader responds: "It's not religion that's the problem, it's the people who are mad and corrupt giving religion a bad name."

We're going to have much more on how this story is playing out in the social media sphere in just a moment.

But first, there's no denying that children are subjected to horrific abuse in the name of religious tradition.

Christian Purefoy has part two now of our special series from one of the heartlands of abuse.


CHRISTIAN PUREFOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Praying for deliverance from witchcraft. Some church pastors in Southeast Nigeria claim illness and poverty are caused by witches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's only the report of the lord concerning our lives that we need to believe.

PUREFOY: Who bring terrible misfortune to those around them. Those denounced as witches, the pastors say, must be cleansed through deliverance or cast out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been delivered from the witches and wizards today.

PUREFOY: Here, children cast out by their families are roaming the street, denounced as witches and too young to argue otherwise.

Samuel is 15 and has been living on the street for five years after a local pastor blamed him for unexpected deaths in the family.

SAMUEL: My parents sent me out of the house -- said I'm a witchcraft. They took me to a church and I professed that I am a witchcraft. So my parents sent me away from the house.

PUREFOY: Lucky and Yang (ph) worked with an NGO called Stepping Stones Nigeria, that is dedicated to helping street children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a million of them.

PUREFOY: Lucky blames local preachers preying on parents' fears for up to 20 new children being cast out each month.

LUCKY INYANG, PROJECT DIRECTOR, "STEPPING STONES NIGERIA": Religious leaders capitalize on the ignorance of some parents in the villages just to make some money off them. They can say your child is a witch. If you bring the child over to the church, we'll deliver the child. But eventually, they don't deliver the children.

The parents go back to the pastor and say why is it that you've not been able to deliver the child?

And the pastor will say oh, this one has gone past deliverance. They've eaten too many flesh so we can't deliver them. All you have to do is throw the child out.

PUREFOY: But pastors charge a fee for deliverance, anywhere from $300 to $2,000.


PUREFOY (on camera): Helen Ukpabio, the pastor at the front of the church, is one of the main pastors accused of signifying children as witches. We've come down for an agreed interview, but after two days, she continues to postpone.

(voice-over): Her 1999 film, the widely distributed "End of the Wicked," has been attacked by child rights' groups for its depictions of Satan possessing children. And to this day, in her preaching at Liberty Gospel Church, Helen Ukpabio Herald's success sorties of how she has driven out demons from deliverance.

HELEN UKPABIO: And witches and wizards, they started to get afraid. I never gave them rest.

PUREFOY: But some pastors believe education is a more powerful tool against witchcraft fears.


I believe that one of the things that used to cause the parent to abandon the children is ignorance.

PUREFOY: During our visit with Lucky, a young boy returns, badly beaten.

INYANG: We've staged an attempt to reunite him with the family and it has proved abortive.

PUREFOY: So what sort of future will he have?

INYANG: It's a very difficult one. Without the family intervention of an organization like ours, he might grow up and join a gun on the street and then he will become the real threat to society.

PUREFOY (voice-over): But the night brings only more deliverance -- more witches to be cast out.

Christian Purefoy, CNN, Aquebo (ph), Nigeria.


FOSTER: That's undoubtedly a powerful story that's touching a nerve with many of you. We've already shared a few of your thoughts.

Now, our Phil Han takes a closer look at all the reaction out there on the social media.

PHIL HAN, CONNECT THE WORLD DIGITAL PRODUCER: We've had an absolutely huge response to this story across multiple platforms on social media. Our blog on Nigeria's witch problem is currently one of the most popular stories on the site and we have received hundreds and hundreds of comments on this issue from all over the world.

And it's not just coming in via our blog. People are also Tweeting about this story and really sharing their opinions on this very controversial story.

Now, this is a look at a Tweet map here. And you can -- I just want to bring up three for you right now. A fellow by the name of Yeesha4hd has just Tweeted: "I doubt if I could sleep this night because I am sad with this barbaric and inhumane treatment."

Now this is from someone from Nigeria by the name of Isha (ph).

BJBlaze06 has just Tweeted: "People who subject the children to this are cowards and inhumane. Cultures should not be blamed, but instead the individual."

And finally, someone by the name of Osynkem in Washington, D.C. has just Tweeted: "If, indeed, they are under any spell, they need love and help and not to be isolated from the rest of their family."

Now, as I mentioned, we've also been getting tons of comments on our blog online. And I want to show you this right now. Now, this is called a word cloud and it's by a company called Wordle. Essentially what it does is it analyzes all the words that people are currently using to share their opinion online. Now, the bigger the word, the more popular it is. So, as you can see, the discussion is really being dominated by one issue and that's religion -- terms like Christian, God, belief, children, evil -- they're all being used quite a bit by people writing in from all over the world.

And it's also interesting to note that people are also using terms like Muslim and Islam to talk about this issue.

Now, I want to read you just a few of those comments from our blog right now. Someone by the name of Dragula9 writes: "Religion preys on the weak-minded. It preys on their fears and exploits those fears."

Croll asks: "Why take the youngest and weakest? It's a shame these kids are victimized by the same people who should be helping them."

And D.C. Lawyer writes: "Where's the outcry from moderate Christians to do something about this tragedy?"

Now, some people have also written in, saying that this story has absolutely nothing to do with religion.

History1862 argues: "Religion or not, the point is that people are being injured and killed and the ones doing it aren't being prosecuted."

And Yaya blames colonialism, writing: "Those same countries that messed up Africa have turned their backs on them."

Now, you can still join in the debate just by visiting our site at We have a brand new blog up on the site and it's a story with some brand new heart-wrenching pics that will be sure to continue the discussion online.

FOSTER: As we mentioned last night, Nigeria is just one of the many countries in Africa where children are being accused of witchcraft. UNICEF calls it the urban child witch phenomenon and says it's growing in several countries in West and Central Africa. Orphans and children with physical disabilities are at most risk. Another factor in several other countries is albinism, a congenital disorder characterized by lack of pigment in the skin and the hair. In these countries, albino children face discrimination or are even killed because they are thought to have magical powers.

Hearing the facts and figures is hard enough, but put a human face on that abuse and it truly does break your heart.

One documentary does just that, showing us the names, the faces and scarred bodies of children accused of practicing witchcraft.

Mags Gavan is producer and co-director of "Saving Africa's Witch Children."

She's in Toronto.

She joins us now.

Thank you very much, indeed for joining us.

I just want to get your thoughts as a -- as an expert now in this area, really, because you've been out there and seen it firsthand.

Would you blame religion or culture for this?

MAGS GAVAN, "SAVING AFRICA'S WITCH CHILDREN": I have to say it's a little bit of both. But personally, I -- I tend to blame religion in that area. Every other house is a church and there are lots of people who are acting out those crazed -- some pastors. And it's become really fanatical. And to be honest, it's -- it's annoying that churches haven't spoken out about this. Very few churches have actually stood up, apart from the Catholic Church, I think, in Nigeria, and said this practice is wrong. It's just outrageous.

FOSTER: It's a business, basically, isn't it...


FOSTER: -- because the pastor of a church men or whatever you want to call them are making money from it?

GAVAN: Yes, it's a complete business. And, actually, from my experience, it's been -- I've been to all kinds of, you know, Christian conferences while I was there. And the priests are all driving around in Humvees and big cars and they really are the only people, it seemed, to have money in the area. And, of course, there are good preachers and there are good charities. But they need to stand up and speak out on this.

FOSTER: OK, Mags, we're just going to have a look at your film, a moment in your film, at least, a touching moment. We're going to -- we're going to feature one of the young girls that actually you came across.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to the family, they said she has poisoned this food with a witchcraft spell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to kill that small girl.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh. She's afraid that she might be massacred.


FOSTER: So why, Mags, in that example, would a young girl be accused of casting a spell?

Was there something unusual about her?

Did she have some sort of medical illness which they refused to accept?

GAVAN: Well, I mean, I think in this case, she was actually just seen as -- they actually believed that she had poisoned the food in the house. She'd been a little bit stubborn. And the whole village had turned against her. And, of course, we, you know -- we -- we kind of turned up in that village and everybody was just saying this child, you know, she's a witch, keep her away.

So just from being a bit stubborn, it can be anything.

FOSTER: What happened to that parent-child bond which is so powerful, we think, that it's just broken by community, by a pastor?

GAVAN: Well, I mean that mother was actually a really sweet lady. But she'd been told first by one preacher that her child had witchcraft that was so strong that she needed to pay a lot of money to have it eradicated. She then went to another preacher, which is quite wise, to go and get a second opinion. But that preacher also told her, yes, this child definitely has a witch and, you know, you need to -- you need to spend a lot of money and we need to exorcise this child for weeks and weeks and weeks, which is what they did.

FOSTER: How would you suggest...

GAVAN: And she really believed it.

FOSTER: How would you suggest, as an outsider, that these preachers can be dealt with, because it's clearly their fault, largely?

GAVAN: Well, I think, you know, at the moment, nobody -- not enough preachers are being arrested and convicted. And it's essential that this happens. Until -- until these preachers see that this is being done, they're going to continue, because it's a way of making money. So they'll carry on until that's done, until a few have been sent down.

FOSTER: Mags Gavan, thank you very much, indeed, depressing as it is.

Now, before we move on, we want to remind you how you help stop this abuse of children accused of being witches. Click on on our -- our Web site there. You will find two charities that work with young victims, helping to transform lives and restore stolen childhoods. That's

Now, up next, the aid battle in Pakistan. Not only are relief workers struggling to help the tide of flood victims, they're also facing reports of threats from the Taliban.

And the bid to reverse an ecological disaster -- the livelihood of some parts of Kazakhstan may depend on it. Our special report on a shrinking sea.

We'll be back.


FOSTER: Evacuate immediately -- that's the dire warning that Pakistan's government has issued to half a million people as the flood crisis deepens in the country's southeast. Already, 17 million people have been affected by the catastrophe. Many Pakistanis have become refugees in their own country and are facing the increasing risk of a disease epidemic.

Medical aid is desperately needed. But amid the health crisis, reports that Islamic extremists are threatening to attack Western relief workers.

Foreign aid workers are keenly aware of the dangerous of working in Pakistan. The country is critical in America's fight against terrorism. Yet doctors from all over the world are in the country to help on behalf of the U.N. and other groups and charities. Among them, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, as scores of medical staff from the U.S. and Europe, including Turkey and Brazil, are working throughout the country. One hundred and twenty members of Doctors Without Borders from Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. are working with 1,200 Pakistanis now in the north and in the south.

Medical Emergency Relief International, also known as Merlin, has close to 700 medical staff lending a hand in -- in one particular province. And OXFAM International has sent staff from the U.S. and Europe, as well as Australia and Canada.

So far, $642 million have been given to help the flood victims. The United States is the single biggest donor, sending $156 million in aid. But the U.S. contribution isn't just a humanitarian gesture, as Sara Sidner reports, it's also a crucial attempt to win the hearts and the minds of the Pakistani people, who often see America as the enemy.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Rajiv Shah is getting an earful from flood victims, as the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, it is exactly what he came for.

DR. RAJIV SHAH, USAID ADMINISTRATOR: You -- you give one to each family.

SIDNER: Shah traveled to relief camps in Pakistan's Sindh Province to get a personal look at what's been done for people there and what isn't.

SHAH: It's tragic. And when you walk through there and you talk to people, the first thing they tell you is what they've lost, which is generally everything. And then they -- they quickly get to the things that they need right now.

SIDNER: For some, the list is endless. But in these camps, food and drinking water has been scratched off the list.

SHAH: And are -- are you getting enough to -- are you getting enough food to eat here?

SIDNER: The young boy nods yes.



SIDNER (on camera): We were here 11 days ago and what we're noticing now here in the Sindh Province is that distribution of aid is going much smoothly and there seems to be more of it.

(voice-over): Still, nearly one month after the initial floods, there are daily new arrivals to the camps who have just now made their way from areas still being flooded by the Indus River. It is estimated damage from the flooding sets the country's development back decades.

In recognition of that, Shah announced the U.S. is redirecting another $50 million to flood aid from other funds earmarked earlier for Pakistan.

SHAH: We know that we can use resources in a way that are effective and efficient. And we know that if we do that right now, we will save lives and prevent disease and help children have enough food to eat and get back into schools. And I think that's what our humanitarian and moral mission is.

SIDNER: But the U.S. interest in Pakistan is far more involved than simply helping victims of the floods. Pakistan is a strategic country in the war on terrorism and analysts say the U.S. cannot afford to let a lack of Western aid increase the impact of charities associated with militant groups.

The question is, will the outpouring of donations begin to win the hearts and minds of Pakistan's people, as the U.S. continues drone strikes in the north?

In a recent Pew survey, nearly six out of 10 Pakistanis still view the United States as an enemy.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Sukkur, Pakistan.


FOSTER: After the break, we take a look at a sea that became a desert -- our Earth's Frontiers special continues in Kazakhstan, where communities are working to bring their precarious waterway back to life.

Stay with us.


FOSTER: The world like you've never seen it before. We're taking a two week journey around the globe, landing on some of the most incredible places on earth.

We're looking at science and nature, protection versus progress and what we can learn from a billion years of evolution.

On Monday, we were in the U.S., blending biology with robotics. Scientists there have a theory that an eel's spinal cord may be the key to helping paralyzed people walk again.

Then we were here in Britain, where architects are using nature as their model and mentor, bringing buildings to life from designs by the best in the business.

And on Wednesday, we waded through the Louisiana marshlands, where our smallest organisms are hard at work feeding on one of our biggest environmental problems, an oil slick.

Tonight we're in Kazakhstan, where a dramatic rescue operation is underway to save the shrinking Aral Sea.

Becky Anderson takes a look at the attempts now being made to reverse what was once described as one of the world's most shocking manmade environmental disasters.


BECKY ANDERSON, HOST, CONNECT THE WORLD (voice-over): The Aral Sea -- and Serik Pargatz (ph) is praying for a good catch. This scene would have been unthinkable just five years ago. Once the world's fourth largest inland sea, the Aral Sea lost 90 percent of its area after the rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate cotton fields elsewhere in the arid region in the 1960s.

SERIK DUISENBAYEV, ARAL TENIZI: The first time I saw the Aral fill when I was 17 years old. When I was born, the sea was not around. I felt very sad. But, you know, the people lived almost 40 years without the sea. But now we have hope here. Now the first days of the project was already finished and now the sea is only 50 kilometers far from our house and I believe and I hope that after the second phase of the project, the water will be on


ANDERSON: There is now an ongoing effort in Kazakhstan to save the North Aral Sea and reverse an ecological disaster. The first phase was an $86 million dam, completed in 2005. The second phase of the project aims to address the social, economic and environmental problems that are caused when the Isadakia River (ph) overflows onto the land during times when the water is not needed. It will involve construction of a new dike at a higher elevation and a canal to channel the water to Aral.

SERIK SMAILOV, NORTHERN ARAL SEA PROJECT: Firstly, it is a very important geographical site and we have to protect it. Secondly, it carries out a certain climate control function. And thirdly, it is a place for the local people to fish.

ANDERSON: Localized climate change is just one consequence of the loss of the Aral Sea. As the waters retreated, the summers became hotter and drier and the winters colder and longer, as the sea no longer acted as a temperature moderator. However, although great progress has been made, the outlook for the remnants to the North Aral Sea remain uncertain. The receding waters have left huge plains covered with salt, which is picked up and carried away by the wind as toxic dust. These resting husks of fishing vessels have become a symbol of one of the planet's worst environmental disasters. With the loss of biodiversity came the loss of Aralsk's once vibrant fishing industry.

SMAILOV: Whoever would think this was the main economy?

That time, the population of Aralsk was about 25,000 people. So at least one person from each house used to work in a fish factory. And my mother used to work there for 25 years.

ANDERSON: The slowly rising sea level and the return of biodiversity to the region shows that manmade climate change can -- just sometimes -- be at least partially reversed.

DUISENBAYEV: You know, it's hard to believe that the fishing vessels will come to this place. But I hope that fishing vessels will be coming (INAUDIBLE) and the new factories behind the building (INAUDIBLE) fish that right from the sea. We need it. It's 40 years without the sea. And now we can wait another five years until the sea will be in the old harbor. It's not a long time compared to waiting 40 years. So I believe that Aralsk will be famous with the incoming five years and the two (INAUDIBLE) popular like it was in the early '60s.


FOSTER: Well, the revival of a dead sea in Central Asia bringing some hope there for the region's environmental tragedy.

We've been in Kazakhstan, where work is underway to restore that northern part of the Aral Sea and its once thriving ecosus -- ecosystem.

Tomorrow, we're back here in London, where Becky moderated a very special Frontier today. It's all about balancing progress and conservation. We'll hear from some of our important panelists, including the secretary-general of the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, Amad Jogloff (ph), and environmentalist Philippe Cousteau. That's this time tomorrow on CONNECT THE WORLD.

What did U.N. peacekeepers know and when about mass rapes that took place near out of their bases in Eastern Congo?

The U.N. convenes a special session to try to find some answers. That story when we return.


FOSTER: You're back with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Max Foster in London. Coming up, just 30 kilometers away when help was needed, but the mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo reignites the debate about the efficiency of the UN force there.

Switching tactics to stop the slaughter. Wildlife park security firms are waging war on the rhino poachers in South Africa.

And the glamor girl is back by popular demand, one of your favorite Connectors of the Day, Dita Von Teese, answers your questions. All those stories ahead in the show for you, but first, we're going to check the headlines this hour.

Pakistan's flood crisis deepens with another half a million people urged to evacuate immediately in the country's southeast. The dire warning was issued after the Indus River broke an embankment, threatening to flood another three major towns. More than 17 million people across the country have been affected by the catastrophe.

German pop star Nadia Benaissa will avoid jail after she was found guilty of failing to tell her sexual partners that she was HIV positive and infecting one of them. A court gave her a two-year suspended sentence and ordered her to do community service.

Chile's miners have now been trapped underground for three straight weeks, and what they don't realize is that they could be down there at least three months. The country's president has hinted to the 33 men they might not be out before Chile's independence day, which is September the 18th, but would be out before Christmas.

United Nations officials say UN peacekeepers knew that rebels were converging on villages in eastern Congo earlier this month, but did not know that they were carrying out mass rapes. Humanitarian workers say nearly 200 women were gang-raped around 30 kilometers away from a UN base.

Those atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo were the focus of a Security Council session today. Our Richard Roth is live at the United Nations for us. Richard?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UN CORRESPONDENT: Max, the UN is saying that they knew, the peacekeepers there in the eastern part of Congo, knew that Rwanda-Congolese rebels were moving into these villages. But they are saying they had no idea that such a mass campaign of rape was taking place.

There was outrage here at UN headquarters, and also questions about how this could happen, what did the UN there know, could it possibly have been stopped. US ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, after the Security Council received a briefing from the UN, discussed her anger.


SUSAN RICE, US AMBASSADOR TO THE UN: I just want to take this opportunity to reiterate from the US point of view our strongest possible condemnation of the rapes and attacks that occurred against scores of innocent civilians.

We're horrified and we're outraged, and that led us, in conjunction with the French, to request this detailed briefing this morning. It was a disturbing briefing, both for what we learned and what we don't know.


ROTH: An international medical organization, which apparently first reported what was going on, says it told the UN about August 5th or 6th, and the UN says they didn't hear about it until about August 12th. That's just one of the may open questions which even the Security Council president for this month said needs to be answered.


VITALY CHURKIN, UN SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENT: Well, I think I can even speak on my capacity as president of the council that there was general feeling that things did not work the way they should have worked, and it is the intention of the council to look into it very thoroughly. And as the statement said, everything needs to be done in order to prevent such occurrences in the future.


ROTH: The US ambassador is talking about plans, perhaps, to get radios into these villages so that they can communicate and have some type of early warning system. The UN is sending an envoy over there to follow up on the questions the Security Council has.

And Max, sexual abuse, sexual violence, has been a main theme at the UN that they've been increasingly worried about over the years. These horrible atrocities seem to continue.

In Congo, it's one of the worst places. Women are used and branded, even, their bodies burned. And the women are often doubly victimized because their own families shun them if they even report what happened. Max?

FOSTER: We'll hear more on this. Richard, thank you very much, indeed.

Next, the hunters become the hunted. We're on the trail of poachers in South Africa. An elite fearless squad is tasked with protecting the rhino. But can the group fight an insatiable appetite from distant shores?


FOSTER: Kenya has claimed a scalp in its crackdown on wildlife poachers. A Chinese man has been jailed for 18 months after being caught trying to take ivory out of the country. South Africa is waging a similar war on poachers. Diana Magnay takes us to the front line in the fight to save the rhino, slaughtered just for its horn.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An elephant stumbles upon the carcass of a rhino in a South African game reserve. It is as though this creature mourns the murder of the other.

Like the elephant, the rhino has no predator in the African bush besides man. For centuries, these majestic creatures have fallen prey to man's greed for trophies and for the mythical properties of their horn. Highly valued in the Far East, and a staple of traditional Chinese medicine.

This is the seventh rhino lost on the Pilansesberg Game Reserve this year. Police ballistics experts sever the head in search of bullets, which may provide clues as to who did it.

MAGNAY (on camera): Apparently, you can tell from the way that this horn has been taken off the animal that it was probably shot and injured, left to die. And only a couple of weeks later did the poachers find it again, at which point they were literally able to knock the horn off the carcass.

RUSTY HUSTLER, NORTH WEST PARKS AND TOURISM BOARD: And so, I'm just looking around here to see if we can pick up any nickel.

MAGNAY (voice-over): Rusty Hustler runs the security here. He has a team of 30 trackers to patrol 60,000 hectares, almost 150,000 acres. Meager resources, he says, to combat poachers who can get $40,000 for one rhino horn,

HUSTLER: We know there are syndicates operating, and we believe that some of the syndicates are led by people from the East. But they bring in their own gangs of poachers. It could be anybody. Mozambicans, Zimbabweans.

MAGNAY (voice-over): Anti-poaching firms operate with full military discipline. Scouts with Nkwe Wildlife Security Services live out in the bush for 15 days at a time, patrolling for poachers whilst living amongst the most dangerous animals on Earth.

MAGNAY (on camera): So it's total military-style life?

SIMON ROOD, NKWE WILDLIFE SECURITY SERVICES: It has to be. The guys don't wash, this is how they live. Sleeping bag, they're not allowed to make fires, they cook on a little paraffin stove. So it's all very low- key.

MAGNAY: Do you like it?



MAGNAY: Well that's lucky.

ROOD: Here's a typical snare, what they would use for a rhino. It's big, it's thick, and they get it to ride the rhino, and live to be immortality.

MAGNAY (voice-over): The scouts lay a mark ambush. Our pretend poachers are immobilized. Handcuffed. Nkwe Commander in Chief, Simon Rood, believes this commando-style level of security is the only way.

ROOD: You know, if a guy's got a property and he's got a lot of rhino, he lives in the city, he's got state of the art security. Well, he must do the same for his rhino.

MAGNAY (voice-over): Some game owners have tried de-horning their rhinos to deter the poachers. But Faan Coetzee of the Endangered Wildlife Trust says de-horning isn't the answer.

FAAN COETZEE, ENDANGERED WILDLIFE TRUST: Because now, you've got 20 rhino on your farm, you're de-horning them all, and you say there's 40 rhino horns in your possession. And that's exactly what the rhino poachers are after. And they've got rifles. They will come to your house and get it from you. They will kill you or they will take it from you.

MAGNAY (voice-over): South Africa is losing a rhino every day to the poacher's gun. But the battle to protect this species begins on the medicine shelf. China has used powdered rhino horn in its medicines for 2,000 years. African gamekeepers can only do so much to change the culture of far away nations. Diana Magnay, CNN, Northwest Province, South Africa.


FOSTER: Despite the international ban, rhino horns are in high demand, mostly in east and southeast Asia. They've long been sought after in China, where the horns are ground into powder and used as a traditional medicine to treat a number of ailments, including rheumatism, gout, and impotence.

In Vietnam, they're sold in stores, even hospitals marked it as a potential cure for cancer. Illegal shipments have also been seized in Thailand and the Philippines. And in the past, they were shipped to the Middle East, specifically Yemen, where the horns were once used to make handles for ceremonial daggers. But that practice has largely stopped.

The World Wildlife Fund is one organization working to protect the rhino population. Carlos Drews is head of the WWF Species Program. He joins me now from Geneva. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining me, Carlos.

Until recently, the rhino population was doing quite well, wasn't it? What's happened recently to change that?

CARLOS DREWS, WORLD WILDLIFE FUND SPECIES PROGRAM: Really, the story of rhinos is the story of conservation success. The white rhino were at the low of 100 animals in 1895, and over the last century or so, they came back to 20,000 due to the conservation efforts. Whereas the black rhino was down to two and a half thousand in 1990s, and is now up to 4,000 animals.

So it's really a conservation success story, and nonetheless, with the trade that is going on and the rate of a rhino every 32 hours lost, these species may be going again toward the brink of extinction.

FOSTER: Why the sudden turnaround? Why the sudden increase in demand, the sudden increase in poaching?

DREWS: It is evident that in Vietnam there is now a widespread belief that wasn't around in previous years that rhino horn cures cancer. And that seems to have triggered a tremendous demand for rhino horn. We know that Vietnamese officials have been part of this rumor that has been spread, but also involved in South Africa. As a member of the embassy --

FOSTER: OK, Carlos Drews, we've had some problems communicating with you, but we're going to try to get you back, hoping it is a temporary problem. You back with us, Carlos?

DREWS: Yes, I'm with you.

FOSTER: OK, so a massive surge in demand from dem -- from Vietnam, you're telling us. That seems extraordinary. Is there any scientific basis to the fact that these horns can actually be a cure for cancer?

DREWS: That we don't know for sure, but there was a study in 1983 by WWF and IECN showing that there was no evidence whatsoever that rhino horn would do an medicinal positive effects on fever and epilepsy and migraines, which at the time had been argued was cured by rhino horn.

So we believe that rhino horn is what it is. It's just hair, it's carotene, it's your fingernails. And so far, nothing substantiated that it can cure cancer.

FOSTER: You look at the numbers. You've followed this in great detail. How long have we got until the rhino is extinct if we carry on at this sudden increased rate?

DREWS: At the sudden rate, we may be looking at a decade, and probably less than that, so we need to act quickly, and we need to act on the consumer end of things. We need to stop this belief, and we need to really support, somehow, the South African government, who is very challenged with mafias that include helicopters, night vision devices, and very sophisticated armory.

FOSTER: Carlos Drews of the WWF. Thank you very much, indeed, for joining us from Geneva with that.

Now, along with rhino, several other species have to contend with poaching. Tigers and lions are primarily linked or killed to supply underground markets with organs, pelts, and bones. These items are highly regarded for their purported healing abilities in traditional Asian medicine.

Elephants are killed for their ivory tusks that are turned into ornamental items. Gorillas' hands and heads can be seen in the black markets of Africa and Asia as trophy-type souvenirs

The pet trade is also a problem for all great apes. The families are killed, and the babies are taken from the forest.

Many bear species, including polar bears, are hunted illegally for their gall bladders, used in traditional Asian medicine. Pelts and claws are used for souvenirs as well.

Now, happy birthday Connector of the Day. All this week, we're celebrating and bringing back your guests, or at least the guests you want to hear from again. Up next, the second-most popular Connector of our website for 2010, we'll hear from the glamorous siren using her assets for charitable causes.



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Dita Von Teese has been the biggest name in burlesque for a generation. She tops international best- dressed lists and is credited with bringing back the glamor and allure of old Hollywood stars.

Famed for her adult performances, in which she bathes in a giant cocktail glass, Dita brings classic pinup imagery to life.

She's also used her risque routines to charitable ends. A fierce advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS, she's lent her support to the MAC Viva Glam campaign, led by Nancy Mahon.

NANCY MAHON: CEO, MAC AIDS FUND: We've raised $30 million, literally, in about ten months. That's a lot of lipstick, $14 at a time. Or, 12.5 euros at a time. So what we're seeing is that women care. And we're hoping -- The bottom line for them, though, is it's guilt-free shopping. All the money goes to AIDS, and they get a great product. But what we're very -- really hoping is that other companies will follow suit.

ANDERSON (voice-over): And recently performed at a charity concert at the World AIDS Conference in Vienna.

A flawless fashion icon, designer, model, and artist. Dita Von Teese is your Connector of the Day.


FOSTER: Bill Gates, Morgan Freeman, Tony Blair, just some of the big names you've been connected to right here on CNN. All this week, we're celebrating Connector of the Day's first birthday.

On Wednesday, we heard from Jacqueline Novogratz, the third-most popular Connector on our website this year. Today, we reveal who's nabbed the number two spot. And it is that burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese. Becky spoke to her last month, and began by asking her about one of our viewers, Isabelle, the question she had about the MAC AIDS fund, and why she's chosen HIV and AIDS as a cause to support.


DITA VON TEESE, BURLESQUE ARTIST: I heard about this Viva Glam lipstick, and I heard that I could buy a Viva Glam lipstick, and every penny that I paid for the lipstick would go to the MAC AIDS fund. And it made a big impact on me, this campaign with Ru Paul, in so many ways.

And so, all these years later, when I was actually asked to be a spokesperson, it was -- I was overjoyed at the chance to get the message out about this lipstick and the power of it. And I'm -- I clearly love lipstick, and so I love it even more when it's raised $180 million. That goes to help people.

ANDERSON: It is an amazing campaign. And I was talking to its leader in Vienna last week. I know that you were also at the AIDS conference in Vienna a week or so ago. Anything that you heard there that really inspired you and that made you feel like we were really sort of on our way to nailing this epidemic?

VON TEESE: Well, I think it's just really amazing to be at these events where people are coming together and bringing up awareness, and I really wanted to get the message across about the empowerment issue, and how important it is to stand up for yourself and not to be afraid, to insist on safe sex, or to carry condoms. And it's just really important to tell women that it's OK to do this without feeling bad or guilty.

ANDERSON: What prompted you to transform yourself from what was a naturally blonde midwestern girl from Michigan, as I understand it, into a Hollywood glamor girl of the old style?

VON TEESE: I grew up watching old movies with my mother, and I remember watching these big technicolor musicals with Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe and really watching all this color and vibrancy, and the red lips and the rosy cheeks. And just falling in love with that image.

And I love the idea of the big Hollywood makeover. And I taught myself to do that for myself. I liked the idea of transformation and I like glamor. And to me, the most iconic, glamorous women throughout history, they were really created.

ANDERSON: Do you feel as if you were born into the wrong era, to a certain extent?

VON TEESE: Not really. I really feel like I like being a part of this era. I like that there's a shift in who the fans of burlesque and pinup are and the way that it's changed since the 1930s and 40s when the audiences were predominantly male.

But I've always loved the message of burlesque, that all the stars of burlesque, like Gypsy Rose Lee and Sally Rand. They were self-created and they were business women, and they created their own show and styled themselves. And I liked that idea. And so, that's one of the things I love about burlesque now is even more than ever, it's sort of women creating and being and enjoying this burlesque moment.

ANDERSON: Benim from Finland asked a very interesting question. He says he's heard you criticized for objectifying the female body. And he says, "What's your view on the importance, role, and relevance of femininity and masculinity in the contemporary world? Should they matter, and if they should, when and where?"

VON TEESE: Well, it's a very complicated argument when people accuse me of being anti-feminist or that I'm being exploited because I perform a strip tease. It becomes a much more complicated argument when you really look at what my world is and who my fans are and who the people who come to see my shows are.

So I think it's a little bit dismissive to just say that it's exploiting women or that I'm being exploited. It's much more complicated than that.

ANDERSON: Peter from Sweden asked a very interesting question. He says, "Will you continue for many years with this burlesque work?" he says. "And thereby show the world that it's not just a young woman's game. Or do you have plans to do something else as the time goes on?"

VON TEESE: One of the things that I think people forget about what I do is, I'm not just a girl that someone gives me a show and gives me the costume, and here's the music, here's the choreography, and we're going to put pretty lights on you. Go out and do your dance like this.

I create the shows from top to bottom, from the styling to the music to the lighting, and really, I feel like that's what I do best. I'm certainly not the youngest, prettiest, best dancer, most talented person. It's just that I'm good at styling and I'm good at creating these shows. And that's really what burlesque has always been about, is self-creation.

So I think that, though, my ideal is to sort of still continue to create shows and not necessarily star in them.

ANDERSON: Edgar Cuevera from Mexico City wants to ask you what you think your strongest inner inspiration is?

VON TEESE: My strongest inspiration, I think, is really about creating fantasy. And when the curtains open on a show, that it's something from another world and another time, that exciting feeling that it's still live entertainment, and I'm usually thinking about, what's that thing that's going to go wrong this time, and how am I going to deal with it? It's really a big part of live entertainment that I love, is that when things -- anything can happen, and it's really about what you're going to do when it does happen.

ANDERSON: "Vanity Fair" has recently called you a "burlesque super heroine." How do you feel about that? Is that what you are, do you think?

VON TEESE: It makes me want to put on a rhinestone cape, I'll tell you what.


FOSTER: Be sure to tune in tomorrow, when we'll reveal who made it to number one. Find out who got you clicking the most this Friday. Tonight, though, we'll be right back.


FOSTER: We are flying high as we go through the lens tonight. And Scotland, first, is up, up and away as this man prepares his rocket for takeoff at International Rocket Week. There is one.

And next, to Indonesia, where tea -- Tenggerese worker -- worshipers throw a chicken as an offering to mountain gods. It's part of Yadnya Kasada Festival, where worshipers gather at Mount Bromo to bring their offerings.

Touching air, this snowboarder takes flight at a competition in Australia.

And finally, one giant leap into the pool. This girl cools off in the California heat. The sky is the limit tonight in Your World in Pictures.

Before we leave tonight, let's take a last look at our top story on children being accused of witchcraft. It's had a phenomenal response on our website, more than 1700 comments and counting. Here's what you've been saying as well.

Rabbit26 says, "This is lunacy. Cruelly against children -- cruelty against children shouldn't be tolerated. Such heartless parents."

Another writes, "Shame on those who abuse their position as preachers to commit such horrific crimes. The church they serve should expel them."

Colorado14er says, "You can't lay this on religion. If you have been there, you know that superstitions abound among tribal peoples. Blame the parents who use it as an excuse to get rid of their kids."

You've also been sending in your Twitter responses to Becky about this story, and here's just a few. Glamdivine (ph) says, "With atrocities like this blatantly defended by pastors, you wonder if religion isn't really the opium of the poor."

Sammy (ph) tweets, "Shocking and sad that kids are abused and tortured also in the UK. Poverty and ignorance work hand in hand." If you would like to have your say on Twitter, the address is @beckycnn.

And we wrap up our look at children accuse of witchcraft tomorrow. We've already met child right's advocate, Sam Ikpe-Itauma. He runs the orphanage that tries to rescue these kids. You would think local authorities would be grateful that someone like Sam is stepping up to do something, but we'll hear how accusations -- well, accusations that he and others like him are just running a scam.

You can also share your thoughts on the story by going to our website. You know the address,

I'm Max Foster. That is it for the show on the TV. Do stay connected with us online, though. "BackStory" is next, right after this check of the headlines.