Worst Ever Year For Rhino Poaching In South Africa

Rhino horn demand leads to record poaching

November 2011. More rhinos have been killed in South Africa in the past 10
months than were killed in all of 2010, new poaching numbers reveal. Statistics
from South Africa National Parks show that 341 animals have been lost to
poaching so far in 2011, compared to a record total of 333 rhinos that were poached in 2010.

South Africa’s grim milestone comes on the heels of an announcement by WWF
last week that rhinos have gone extinct in Vietnam. The
carcass of Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was found with a gunshot wound and without
its horn.

Driven by demand from Vietnam
At a meeting of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) last year, the
international community concluded that the increase in rhino poaching has been
caused largely by demand for horn products in Vietnam. Law enforcement efforts,
while increasing, are not yet sufficient to protect rhinos from poachers or stop
the smuggling and sale of their horns by organized crime rings.

“It’s hardly surprising the horn was missing from the last rhino as Vietnam
is the preeminent market destination for illegally sourced rhino horns,” says
Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC rhino programme

Tiger parts in demand in Vietnam too
In addition to being
the biggest consumer of rhino horn, Vietnam is also a major market for tiger
parts and other products derived from endangered species. Populations of tigers
in the country are alarmingly low and could soon follow the Vietnamese Javan
rhino into extinction.

“The unfounded rumour that rhino horn can cure cancer most likely sealed the
fate of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam,” says Dr. A. Christy Williams, WWF’s
Asian rhino expert, “This same problem is now threatening other rhino
populations across Africa and South Asia.”

Of the five species of rhinoceros, three are critically endangered. With the
loss of the Vietnamese Javan rhino, there are now fewer than 50 Javan rhinos
remaining, all in one national park in Indonesia.

“It’s tragic that the
Javan rhino has been wiped out in Vietnam by the same forces that are driving
rhino poaching in Africa. This is the ultimate wake-up call for the Vietnamese
government to turn aggressively on its internal rhino horn market,” Milliken

South Africa badly hit
South Africa has been the focal
point of poaching because it has the largest population of rhinos in the world.
Law enforcement efforts there have been scaled up resulting in more arrests, and
some of those convicted are being sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

However, demand for medicinal products containing rhino horn continues to
increase in Vietnam and other parts of Asia. Rhino horn has no absolutely no
ability to treat cancer or any other disease, and is no longer a part of the
official Chinese traditional medicine pharmacopeia.

Tropy hunting loophole
Despite an international ban on
commercial trade under CITES, rhino horn continues to be smuggled illegally from
Africa to Asia. Additionally, legal loopholes allowing for the export of rhino
hunting trophies are being exploited in some South African provinces.
Improvements are needed in the regulation of hunting permits and the management
rhino horn stock piles in the country. Read Trophy hunting rhinos adding to vast
poaching problem

‘Legally hunted’ rhino’s horns scam
Large numbers of
rhinos have also been legally hunted in South Africa – Reports suggest that 143
licenses have been granted in 2011 by South African authorities to hunt rhinos.
It is believed that many of these rhinos are killed by Asian businessmen who are
allowed to export the horns legally as ‘trophies’ on the understanding that the
horns are not resold commercially – But who checks to see where those horns are

Armed protection
“Since armed protection for rhinos in
South African national parks is strong, poaching syndicates are likely to shift
to countries with weaker enforcement power, including possibly Asian countries
that may be caught off-guard,” said Dr. Carlos Drews, Global Species Programme
Director at WWF. “To break the illegal trade chain, governments in source,
transit and consumer countries must all scale up their efforts.”

In September a delegation of Vietnamese officials visited South Africa to
discuss enhancing law enforcement cooperation between the two countries. Last
year TRAFFIC facilitated a similar visit to Vietnam for South African

Criminal gangs
“Vietnam should follow South Africa’s
example and start sending poachers, traders, smugglers and sellers to jail,”
says Dr. Joseph Okori, WWF’s African rhino programme coordinator. “In order to
save rhinos from extinction, the criminal syndicates operating between South
Africa and Vietnam must be uncovered and shut down for good.”



~ by narhvalur on November 3, 2011.

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