- 7:40 am - Thu, Nov 3, 2011
- 639 notes
Rhino horn demand leads to record poaching
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 last year.
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.
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.
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.
Three out of five rhinos are critically endangered
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.
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 proven ability to treat cancer and is no longer a part of the official Chinese traditional medicine pharmacopeia.
Governments must scale up their efforts
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 of rhino horn stock piles in the country.
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 authorities.
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