Things are getting better for African rhinos, but don’t thank Vietnam yet

By VnExpress   February 28, 2017 | 12:51 am PT
Things are getting better for African rhinos, but don’t thank Vietnam yet
A rhino with its horn hacked off at a farm in South Africa. Photo by Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
Fewer rhinos are being killed, but activists don’t think Vietnam as the main market has done anything worth praising.

Rhino poaching in South Africa dropped for the second year running in 2016, but conservationists are still looking for Vietnam, the world's biggest market, to a strong blow to the savage trade.

South Africa on Monday said the number of rhinos killed illegally in the country in 2016 had dropped slightly to 1,054 from the previous year’s 1,175, which was also a fall from the record 1,215 in 2014, Reuters reported.

But conservationists do not seem to be thrilled.

“Rhino poaching figures remain unacceptably high,” the international wildlife trade monitoring program TRAFFIC said in an online statement.

Improved detection, arrest and prosecution of traffickers still have a long way to go, it said.

The group singled out Vietnam, “the principal end-use destination” of the illegal rhino horn trade, blaming the country for failing to effectively reduce its demand for horn. It also criticized the lack of actions from Mozambique, a transit and exit point for horns leaving Africa.

“There is little evidence either Mozambique or Vietnam have taken the necessary actions for a decisive blow against rhino horn trafficking and consumption in their countries,” Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Rhino Programme Leader, was quoted as saying.

“It’s simply not possible to regard the sustained poaching of three rhinos each and every day as anything less than a continuation of the crisis,” Milliken said, calling every nation to step up to the plate.

TRAFFIC said the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) later this year will assess the progress made by Vietnam to address the issue and that it would impose punitive trade sanctions on the country if the actions are deemed inadequate.


Rhino poaching toll in South Africa over the last decade. Graphics by TRAFFIC

Rhino horn is sought after in Vietnam by those who believe that it can cure cancer, despite no scientific basis.

The last known Javan rhino in Vietnam, which belonged to a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010. Its horn had been hacked off.

This is not the first time the country has been threatened with sanctions over its soft intervention in wildlife trafficking.

During the 17th CITES conference in September 2016, the country was pressured to take stronger actions and instructed to implement penal code reforms to curb domestic demand for horn.

Shortly after the World Wildlife Fund initiated the “Act Now to Save Rhinos” campaign, calling on activists around the globe to sign a letter to Vietnam’s then prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. The letter asked the Vietnamese government to take “concrete action” to tackle the poaching of rhinos and elephants, whose tusks are regularly stopped en route to Vietnam.

Its representatives personally delivered the letter to Vietnamese government officials during an international wildlife trade conference in Hanoi last November with nearly 200,000 signatures including tennis star Andy Murray, the WWF’s new global ambassador.

South Africa is home to more than 80 percent of the world’s rhino population with about 18,000 white rhinos and close to 2,000 black rhinos, making it the frontline in the horn poaching crisis.

Related news:

Vietnam seizes 50 kilos of rhino horn from Kenyan cargo flight

WWF starts petition to end wildlife trade in Vietnam, decries lack of action

go to top