According to the TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, South Africa and Viet Nam will jointly create strategies to curb the growing illegal trade in rhinoceros horn. SA has the largest rhino population due to conservation programs whereas Viet Nam forms the conduit for illegally killed rhinos from SA, and also is a main driver of the illegal rhino horn trade in Asia.
The wild population of rhinos in SA is about 90 percent of the whole of Africa. Ironically, despite several conservation projects in Africa, some ownership of rhino horns from trophy hunting is allowed, albeit under strict regulations, but it is illegal to trade the horns commercially.
Most parts of Asia regard rhino horn has unparalleled medicinal properties, and rumoured to have cancer healing powers. In Vietnam, rhino horns (including fake horns) are being sold through traditional medicine stores, hospitals, and online sites.
The high demand has created highly profitable and organized international poaching criminal syndicates who deploy advanced technologies ranging from night vision scopes, silenced weapons, darting equipment and helicopters to carry out their mission. There was a booming black market in African ivory linked to Asian crime syndicates, experts and delegates said early this year at a meeting in Doha of the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
It has been blamed that the illegal trade in rhino horns was thriving in Viet Nam in the absence of proper registry and tracking methods. The rhino poaching has increased dramatically across Africa particularly between 2006 and 2009, losing close to 500.
"It's vitally important to scale up Africa's law enforcement efforts and link with Asia in the fight to save the world's rhinos", says Tom Milliken, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in East and Southern Africa. While Dr Joseph Okori, head of WWF's African Rhino Programme apprised "The African rhino is under serious threat from poachers who have intensified their search of rhino for their horns since 2007, driven by growing market demands in Asia."
However, the recent collaborative law enforcement efforts by both South Africa and Viet Nam are expected to bring some relief to the worst conservation crisis in the past two decades. The steps taken by the TRAFFIC to bring both Africa and Asia in checking this illegal trade enjoy the financial support of WWF-Germany, WWF African Rhino Programme and the US Government, who made a commitment to support such an initiative at the March meeting of the CITES.
By Jose Roy
afro-asian efforts on to rein in illegal rhino horn trade