500+ rhinos could die this year - group

2012-08-21 11:44

Johannesburg - Global wildlife monitoring network Traffic warned on Tuesday that 515 rhinos could perish by the end of the year if no action is taken to stem the illicit trade in rhino horns.

In its latest report, the agency said that with a total of 281 animals killed as of July, there was a "predicted loss of 515 by year end if current poaching rates continue".

South Africa, home to about three quarters of Africa's 20 000 or so white rhinos and 4 800 critically endangered black rhinos, has in recent years witnessed an unprecedented spike in sophisticated, violent and organised rhino-related criminal activities.

Last year 448 rhinos were killed compared to 13 animals in 2007.

South Africa has lately scaled up its fight against illegal poaching and trade in rhinos horns, arresting 176 suspects so far this year, more than the 165 arrested in the 12 months of 2010.

"It seems this year that efforts are beginning to pay off. We have seen a great increase in arrests. We are also beginning to see some significant sentencing," said Jo Shaw, co-author of the report.

Vietnam, worst offender

But she warned that even with the successful stories of high-value arrests the criminal syndicates appeared generally to be a step ahead - better equipped, well funded.

"As anti-poaching security levels are stepped up, the poaching gangs become more aggressive and increasingly sophisticated," she said.

The report named Vietnam as the worst offender fuelling the trade in the black market for rhino horns.

"The bottom line is that we are not close to ending this crisis yet, we are probably going to get record numbers this year," warned the report's co-author Tom Milliken, who is also an expert on rhinos at Traffic.

The ground horn, which is believed by some to cure cancers, has taken on a new use and is now being pushed as a recreational drug mixed with drinks at elite "rhino wine associations" parties in the belief that it cures hangover.

The report says the only way to end illegal rhino hunting is to cut off the demand, by pushing Vietnam to boldly show commitment and decisively enforce laws that prohibit trade in the horns.

'Serious shortcomings'

It was revealed at the launch of the report that South Africa and Vietnam are set to sign a landmark deal to help stem rhino poaching and the illicit trade in rhino horns.

"I think the heat is clearly on Vietnam. I think we are going to see some changes. The good news today is that the MOU with South Africa is about to be signed," said Milliken.

The network did not give details of the memorandum of understanding, but it is believed to centre on law enforcement.

Vietnam's deputy foreign affairs minister Le Loung Minh was last week in South Africa where he held talks over illegal wildlife hunting, trade and trafficking with his counterpart Ebrahim Ebrahim.

There were some "serious shortcomings" and not so great co-ordination in South Africa's response to rhino crime, "but the will to do right is with us", said Mavuso Msimang, an expert on rhinos in South Africa's department of environmental affairs.

Rhino crimes are receiving heavier sentences and there is now a dedicated prosecutor to handle such crimes.

The report, titled The South African-Vietnam Rhino Trade Nexus, also pointed at a worrying development where game ranch operators and custodians of rhinos have been roped into the crime syndicates to become "rhino horn dealers of some description".

  • sheralee.jones - 2012-08-21 11:49

    Why don't they start educating the children in Vietnam that Rhino horns do nothing but cause endless Rhinos to die.

      ann.murray.9279 - 2012-08-21 13:05

      I just think our government should really start taking this matter far more seriously. So far all we are seeing is "lip service". They need to GET WITH THE PROGRAMME NOW!!!!!

      philip.harris.967 - 2012-08-24 14:29

      Why is it that we could protect Rhinos 18 years ago but now it is all out SLAUGHTER!

  • bryan.winn - 2012-08-21 12:48

    I fear there are more pressing matters

      ed.gutsche - 2012-08-21 13:52

      dude, such as what? getting your head read? once you have realised that 'your more pressing matters' are not going to be dealt with because people are too apathetic, you may suddenly realise that there is NO more wilderness left in africa, that there are no more wild rhinos (critically endangered), ellies (endangered), lions (endangered), leopards (highly endangered)...but hey, as long as your more pressing matters are dealt with.

      Desilusionada - 2012-08-21 15:30

      Such as 500 people getting murdered in 10 days in SA? Or perhaps 500 people killed on SA roads in 16 days? Or perhaps.....

      Desilusionada - 2012-08-21 19:05

      Judging from the thumbs down the general idea would be to let the local population die so that the rhinos will not locally be poached any more? It just beggars the mind that we can still believe that any law or agreement or sanction will hold water or be enforced, when the loss in rhinos, measured just in pure monetary terms, pales into insignificance when compared to the wholesale corruption, nepotism, fraud, theft, murder and mayhem committed by the same people who have to ensure the protection of said rhinos. i.e. the elected Government. If push comes to shove, rhino DNA can be preserved, animals shipped overseas, limited amounts in various places put into electric enclosures etc. There is just no way when, not if, the economy of South Africa implodes as a result of the current trend of destroying breadwinners and spiralling poverty, that the rhino will survive anyhow. Animal lovers, in the paraphrased words of Steve Biko: "You are on your own." Do not depend on government. It is inconceivable that a Malema or a Zuma will rather save a rhino than grab power at all costs....

      bryan.winn - 2012-08-22 11:00

      Couldn't have said it better Desilusionada

  • ruben.maistry - 2012-08-21 13:01

    The world should impose sanctions against Vietnam.Such sanctions would get total co-operation from the Vietnamese government and the people of Vietnam who will expose these murderers.

      philip.harris.967 - 2012-08-24 14:31

      Maybe "the world" should impose sanctions against SA for its involvement in this trade.

  • tednhet - 2012-08-21 13:42

    We have started with dog trackers, We need to get a lot more of these animals trained to attack and destroy.

  • ed.gutsche - 2012-08-21 13:49

    And what of the 20000 ellies that have been kiled in Tanzania ALONE in the past year, mostly by Chinese miners who are illegally mining the Masai Mara and Selous Reserves. I say NUKE CHINA.

  • andre.strydom.9674 - 2012-08-21 14:40

    We need to start breeding our rhinos at an enormous pace to just maintain the numbers and counter the slaughter. We cannot win this battle on an educational and law enforcement basis based on our own track record. Legalise the trade, harvest the rhino horn and use the revenue generated to fund the poaching war and kill the illegal trade.

  • stephen.fienberg - 2012-08-21 14:43

    Why don't we threaten Vietnam with sanctions. Surely all the bunny hugging western nations would be interested. It's not like Vietnam is an economic superpower like Japan or Russia who have always had their way with the IWC with regards to whaling.

      philip.harris.967 - 2012-08-24 14:32

      Why dont we protect our Rhinos ...we could do it 18 years ago ...but not now ??

  • pages:
  • 1