Rhino poaching is a worthwhile fight, says WWF

2013-09-17 14:05
The WWF has conducted research into the consumers of rhino horn in Vietnam. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The WWF has conducted research into the consumers of rhino horn in Vietnam. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Rhino action

2013-08-20 09:58

Dr Jo Shaw argues that supporting the fight against poachers is critical to saving the rhino in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - The war against rhino poaching can be won, despite the increasing poaching that has seen rhino species go extinct in several countries, an environmental organisation has said.

"I think we absolutely can still win this battle in terms of conservation. We need to see wild rhino in wild places," Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino co-ordinator for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-SA) told News24.

The WWF released its research into the consumption of rhino horn in Vietnam on Tuesday and the results show that status is one of the main rivers for rhino poaching in SA.

The survey, which was conducted in conjunction with wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic found that typically, consumers viewed rhino horn as a status symbol.

The archetype of a male horn consumer is 48, wealthy and uses the product to ensure health and virility, the research found.


The survey showed that while a relatively small percentage of consumers bought the horn for their own purpose, there is a larger group known as "intenders" who would buy and use rhino horn if they had the income.

"Intenders want to become buyers and users of rhino horn as it is favoured and valued by those they want to impress," said Dr Naomi Doak of Traffic's Greater Mekong Programme.

The WWF said that of the 87 million Vietnamese, the greater worry was that those who were entering the middle class would place additional demand on rhino horn, driving up the attraction for poachers.

"Of these 87 million people, about two thirds are under the age of 35," said Shaw.

"We need a combination of enhanced law enforcement and reduction campaigns to shift attitudes and behaviour against the trend in rhino horn use within the growing middle class in Vietnam," said Doak.

Shaw said that a campaign to shift attitudes is critical to reduce the demand for rhino horn, estimated to have a black market value of $65 000/kg.

"We've identified an opportunity here where we can begin to shift what's happening in Asia - that can be done."

Poaching hotbed

According to Cites (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), poachers are heavily armed in their determination to kill rhino.

"AK47 assault rifles and 303 calibre rifles have been the most commonly used weapons but, recently, heavier calibre arms (eg .375s and .458s) are now being used," Cites said.

According to the department of environmental affairs (DEA), 618 rhino have been poached in SA so far this year. This is on course to nearly double the 668 total of 2012, which was also significantly higher than the 448 poached in 2011.

The Kruger National park remains a poaching hotbed with 381 rhino poached in the cross border park alone.

The WWF said the research proved that Vietnamese are driven by a desire to move up the social ladder and rhino horn is seen as a mean to achieve mobility.

"They're extremely aspirational; social mobility is very important. They are money conscious and they're aware that the aspirations are beyond their means," said Shaw.


If poaching in SA continues to escalate at current levels, it is likely that within five years, the rhino population would begin to decline.

Species of rhino have been wiped out including the Javan rhino and in Mozambique, the last rhino were poached in 2012.

The WWF said that it was still a fight worth fighting, even as poachers turn their attention to SA, after decimating animals in Kenya and Mozambique.

"The recent spike in poaching in South Africa has been linked to Vietnam coming online as a market, big time. That's why we're working with colleagues like Naomi, who's on the line from Vietnam to reverse that. So we're not giving up," WWF CEO Dr Morné du Plessis told News24.

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Read more on:    wwf  |  traffic  |  rhino poaching

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