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August 27, 2013

Campaign Launched to Reduce Demand for Rhino Horn

Humane Society International

  • There are fewer and fewer left. Sandra vom Stein/istock

Hanoi, Vietnam—More than 580 rhinos have died at the hands of poachers in South Africa this year, the country with the world’s largest rhino population. That’s more than two rhinos killed every day. Many of the horns end up in Asia, including Vietnam.

At an event in Hanoi, the Vietnam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Management Authority that implements CITES and Humane Society International announced a long-term public awareness campaign aimed at reducing demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.

Myths about the curative properties of rhino horn include that it is a cure for cancer or a fever reducer, and some people take it as an antidote to the ill effects of drinking too much alcohol. Others value the substance as a high-end gift or status symbol. However, studies have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal properties and is only composed of keratin. Furthermore, in attempts to thwart poaching, some rhino horn is being treated with chemicals harmful to human health. 

The campaign will work with key stakeholders such as women’s groups, business leaders, students and traditional and Western medical practitioners to develop and implement demand reduction strategies within their communities.

Ha Cong Tuan, Vietnam's Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Chairman of the National Steering Committee for the Vietnam Wildlife Enforcement Network said: “International cooperation is a crucial requirement in addressing issues of international and regional importance, including the conservation of wildlife, particularly for highly endangered species such as rhinos, elephants, bears and tigers. Vietnam is committed to implementing in a responsible manner its international conservation commitments. I call on international organizations to cooperate with, and assist, Vietnam and South Africa to implement our bilateral agreement signed in 2012 in an effective manner, including in the joint action plan on the conservation of rhino populations in South Africa.” 

Teresa Telecky, Director of the Wildlife Department of HSI, said: “We are very pleased to be working with the Vietnam CITES Management Authority on this important issue. Reducing demand for rhino horn in Vietnam will cut off a marketplace for the criminal networks that run the illegal trade, and this is an essential part of the solution to save rhino lives.”

William Fowlds, a South African wildlife veterinarian who has treated the appalling wounds of rhinos whose horns have been hacked from their faces, said: “From a distance of thousands of miles, the suffering of rhinos in my country may not register with people who use rhino horn in East and Southeast Asia. I'm here to remind people that rhino horns arriving in Vietnam have been brutally hacked from the faces of animals that are often still alive. For me, that's the day-to-day reality of rhino poaching.”

Facts:

  • A resurgence in poaching is devastating wild populations of rhinos in Asia and Africa and shows no signs of abating. Moreover, in the last few years, many hundreds of horns -- derived from rhinos legally shot by Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese so-called ‘trophy hunters’ taking advantage of weak controls over trophy hunting in South Africa -- are believed to have entered Asia’s thriving illegal markets.
  • South Africa spends many millions of dollars annually trying to stop poaching. More poachers are being arrested than ever before. Still, illegal poaching intensifies, driven by demand in Asia and the high price rhino horn fetches.
  • In addition to South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe and India have all reported losing large numbers of rhinos to poachers. In the past three years, both Mozambique and Vietnam have seen their rhino populations go extinct.
  • Conservationists warn that in South Africa both the black and white rhino could be extinct in the wild by 2026.
  • In December 2012, in Hanoi, Vietnam’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat, and South Africa’s Minister of Water and Environment, Edna Molewa, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on strengthening cooperation in biodiversity conservation and protection. An action plan to implement the MOU followed.
  • Recently, the Vietnam CITES Management Authority cooperated with conservation groups to provide rhino specimen identification training for law enforcement in Vietnam.

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Media Contact: HSI (United States): Rebecca Basu, +1 (240-753-4875), rbasu@humanesociety.org

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. For more than 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide—on the Web at hsi.org.

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