News24

WWF tackles wildlife crime

2012-08-28 21:23

Johannesburg - The World Wide Fund (WWF) announced a drive on Tuesday to promote government aid in the fight against wildlife crime.

The organisation called on governments to help combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, and to reduce demand for illicit endangered species products, spokesperson Quathar Jacobs said in a statement.

"Demand for rhino horn, ivory, and tiger parts from consumer markets in Asia is driving wild populations dangerously close to extinction.

"[Around] 339 rhinos have been killed by poachers in South Africa this year in order to supply consumer markets in Vietnam, where the animal's horn is advertised as a hangover tonic and cure for terminal illness."

WWF executive director Lasse Gustavsson said the wildlife trade was one of the most lucrative organised crimes.

"The criminal syndicates involved in illegal wildlife trade have also been implicated in murder, drug trafficking, arms proliferation and even terrorism," he said.

According to the WWF, rhino poaching has increased by more than 3 000% in the past five years.

Deon Nel, of the WWF-SA's biodiversity unit, said Africans should strive to protect the rhino, which forms part of the continent's heritage.

"The fight to save Africa's rhino's should become a symbol of Africans taking greater ownership of our resources," he said.

Nel said that if the rhino was not taken care of, it would be exploited by foreign interests in the same way that some mineral resources and fisheries had been.

Conservation efforts put in place in the last two years had helped increase the rhino population.

South Africa currently holds 80% of the continents' rhino.