Asian stars enlisted to fight rhino poaching

2014-09-19 08:39

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kruger National Park - Increasingly desperate South African conservationists are turning to a multi-national team of "rhino ambassadors" to try to end the scourge of poaching - and Vietnamese pop diva Hong Nhung has been recruited for a good reason.

It is hoped the singer and actress will take the message directly to the people who matter - those who buy rhino horn.

Fighting back tears as she stares at a decomposing rhino carcass in the world-renowned Kruger Park, she vows to use her star power to ensure rhinos are not eradicated by poachers.

"People back home need to learn that we need to keep these animals for future generations and not let them disappear," said the artist, who also appeared on screen in the "Quiet American".

Conservationists hope she and others - like Chinese-American actress Bai Ling of "Lost" and "The Crow" fame - will reach Asian consumers who buy the rhinos' horns.

South Africa's fight to restrict the supply of horn has seen military-style anti-poaching operations, but the use of drones and strong-arm tactics has yielded few results.

Over 700 rhinos have been killed in parks across South Africa this year.

Kruger Park has been worst hit, forcing the authorities to approve a plan to relocate hundreds of the endangered animals before they are slaughtered.

Targeting the consumers

Now conservation groups want to tackle demand.

As Hong Nhung and investigators comb the gruesome scene, it is likely the horn has already been smuggled out of the country en route to Asia.

"Vietnam is the main conduit" for smuggled horns to the continent, said Andrew Peterson, the head of Rhinos Foundation, the group who brought Hong Nhung to South Africa.

The horns, made up of a substance similar to human fingernails, are a prized commodity in Vietnam and other east and Southeast Asian nations.

They are used in traditional medicine to "cure" diseases like cancer.

But even in Vietnam the battle to reduce supply is lagging.

Customs officials have so far this year seized only one consignment of horns, compared to six in 2013.

Stricter checks might have caused dealers to change tactics. The horns, usually hidden in luggage, enter the country already chopped into pieces.

Top Vietnamese customs official Nguyen Hung Anh, the vice-president of the anti-smuggling and investigation unit at Vietnam Customs, has also been flown across the world to witness the horrors of poaching.

That kind of investment may just pay off.

Nguyen said his government was considering tighter regulations to curb the trade.

In Vietnam rhino poaching is classified only under prohibited goods and offenders often get off with light sentences.

"The Vietnamese government recognises the impact of the illegal, we believe that stricter punishment is required," he said.

"Right now government is in the process of drafting a law that would give harsher sentences to people selling the horn," he said.

But he admitted that dismantling traditional beliefs around the use of the horns was the biggest challenge.

According to Nguyen, the horn is a "status symbol" among the wealthy who drink it as a detoxing agent, after it has been ground to powder.

"It's like a owning a diamond," he said, adding that "stricter laws and education are key".

Pop star Hong Nhung hopes she can play a role in that.

"We are going to help spread the message that using rhino products is bad, because animals are killed in this horrible way," she said.

Read more on:    kruger national park  |  conservation  |  poaching

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.