As a Wildlands Rhino Ambassador, we are not simply paying lip service to rhino conservation. One of the key roles of an ambassador is to share the story of rhino poaching, and elevate it in the consciousness of everybody, as our rhino populations are part of our natural heritage. Rhino poaching needs to be understood as a massive threat to us all, not simply those who are passionate about wildlife and the environment. If poaching isn’t halted, the rhino may simply become a memory or a photograph, a fantasy in our children’s books – and the question is, what next?
Below is an update from Wildlands on the Rhino Poaching Crisis in South Africa as at November 2015
UPDATE ON THE RHINO POACHING CRISIS – NOVEMBER 2015
With 2 months of the year left, we have already lost more than 950 Rhino to illegal poaching. The exact number is not known as there continues to be very little information provided from a national point of view. In KwaZulu-Natal, we have breached the 100 mark for the year (102 Rhino poached as of 5 November, including 89 White Rhino and 13 Black Rhino), which is the highest number of Rhino poached ever in a single year in KwaZulu-Natal. According to Dr Richard Emslie (member of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group), it is estimated that at least 1314 will probably be lost during 2015, using the current rate of Rhino poaching. Looking broader than South Africa, it is currently being estimated that just over 1500 Rhino will be lost throughout the whole of Africa, indicating the extensive poaching focus in South Africa, which amounts to 4,12 Rhino lost every single day!
LATEST NEWS – CAN FARMING RHINO ASSIST THE PRO-TRADE LOBBY?
In August 2012 TRAFFIC published a report: ‘The South Africa – Viet Nam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus’ highlighting Vietnam as the primary driver of the current Rhino killing spree and the key users groups. It took about two years, not until around mid-2014, for the South African and global media to move from talking about China, traditional Chinese medicine, aphrodisiacs and a 2000 year old culture to finally start talking about Vietnam, status symbol, detox drink and a relatively recent emerging use.
So, the debate continues around the pro-trade / anti-trade lobby, with the pro-trade lobby highlighting the easy of ‘’farming’’ Rhino for their horn. However, research in Asian counties demonstrates that wild animals are considered to be more strength-giving because they have to fight for resources and therefore have greater energy (Chi) and to be ‘pure’ because they eat naturally occurring foods as opposed to farmed animals. The horn that comes from farmed Rhinos isn’t seen as powerful or status giving as the genuine wild article; it is not considered a substitute product by the people who can afford to buy wild Rhino horn. This has been confirmed in several articles who have indicated that Vietnamese don’t want horn from a farmed Rhino and they would pay to get the wild ‘product’. Remember, even as a status symbol Rhino horn is ingested via the so called ‘millionaires detox drink’; a businessman will take it at the end of a networking evening and, as host, will offer it to the peer group he is trying to impress. So its perceived strength/purity is considered important. To further support the notion that these wealthy buyers of Rhino horn don’t see farmed Rhino horn as a substitute product let’s consider the example of the Pangolin – believed to be the world’s most hunted creature and a favourite dish for Vietnam’s wealthy elite. People who farm Pangolins scratch and damage their scales before selling them to restaurants, so they look like they have been taken from the wild. Finally, if you would like additional evidence that the Vietnamese, who can afford to pay for horn from wild Rhino, are not interested in a farmed product. So again, while the demand for Rhino horn remains, the poaching of Rhinos from the wild will continue; farmed Rhino will not help as it is not seen as a substitute product by the Vietnamese elite who can afford genuine, wild Rhino horn.
YOUNG RHINO AMBASSADORS TRAVEL TO VIETNAM
Through the support of the World Youth Rhino Summit, and the #RhinoShoutOutChallenge, a group of South African youth rhino ambassadors – along with Grant Fowlds and Richard Mabanga (dressed in Zulu regalia) – and armed with the WORLD YOUTH WILDLIFE DECLARATION, are currently in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The World Youth Wildlife Declaration has spent the last 12 months travelling South Africa and other countries, collecting thousands of signatures and messages from concerned citizens, ranging from rural school children to global leaders, with a clear message calling for an end to Rhino poaching and all forms of wildlife crime. Notable signatories include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Dr Jane Goodall, the late Dr Ian Player, representatives from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, private and state Rhino owners and US government officials.
The team have been in Hanoi for a week now and thousands of Vietnamese youth and dignitaries are adding their messages of support to the Declaration – it’s a world-first. Leading signatories already include:
– Mr Ted Osius – US Ambassador to Vietnam
– Mr Vu Minh Ly – Director of the Vietnam Communist Youth Union
– Mrs Kgomotso Ruth Magau – South African Ambassador in Vietnam
– Mrs Marina van der Westhuizen – First Secretary Political Ambassador, South African Embassy
– Mr Matt Matiwane – Councillor Politic, South African Embassy
– Mrs Hoang Thi Thanh Nhan – Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Administration
Leaders of the Vietnam Biodiversity Conservation Agency
Hosted by Operation Game Change, the delegation’s action-packed daily programme around Rhino horn demand reduction has already included visits to schools, universities, embassies, environmental agencies and youth leaders. The support from Vietnamese host families, government agencies and media has been overwhelming. The energy of our youth team and the African cultural elements that they are showcasing have been like a magnet for the paparazzi: in particular, Richard and Phelisa have been traffic-stopping hits! We need to keep this type of youth-focussed Africa/Asia energy going into the future.
Keep up to date – follow the team members’ daily blogs and video clips of their awareness-raising efforts via our Facebook pages:
http://www.facebook.com/projectrhinokzn and http://www.facebook.com/YouthRhinoSummit
Click here to watch Prince William’s Sky News address to the people of China on the illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJIY0LLOrRw