|A pair of rhinos grazing in Kenya's Lewa Wildlife Conservancy|
The global wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC has recently warned that 515 rhinos could be killed this year if no action is taken to curb illegal trade in their horns. The network stated in its latest report titled The South African-Vietnam Rhino Trade Nexus that with a total of 281 rhinos perished as of July, there was a "predicted loss of 515 by the year end if current poaching rate continues." South Africa, which is home to about three quarters of Africa's 20,000 white rhinos and 4,800 black rhinos, has witnessed an extraordinary spike in violent, yet organized and sophisticated rhino-related criminal activities. 448 rhinos were killed last year, compared to just thirteen in 2007. In 2010, South Africa increased its battle against the poaching of rhinos and trade in their horns, resulting in arrests of more than 165 people. Jo Shaw, the report's coauthor, stated that South Africa's anti-poaching efforts are starting to pay off, but she also warned that even as security levels are stepped up, the poachers usually appear to be one step ahead. One example is seen in the case where game ranch custodians and operators have been lured into the poaching syndicates to become "rhino horn dealers of some description".
|Graphic fact file on the global underground trade in poached rhino parts|
The report has also labeled Vietnam as the worst malefactor inciting the trade in the black market for rhino horns. In addition to that, the report stated that the only way to put an end to the illegal poaching of rhinos is to block the demand by urging Vietnam to valiantly show commitment and firmly administer laws that ban the trade in rhino horns. It was even found out at the report's launch that South Africa and Vietnam are ready to sign a landmark deal to help stop illegal rhino poaching and trade in rhino horns. Tom Milliken, another coauthor of the report who is also an expert on rhinos, stated that the good news is both the nations are about to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Although TRAFFIC did not give details about the MOU, it did say that the memorandum is thought to be the center on law enforcement. Last week, Vietnam's deputy foreign affairs minister Le Luong Minh held talks in South Africa over poaching, trafficking, and trade of wildlife with his equivalent Ebrahim Ebrahim. Mavuso Msimang, a rhino expert for South Africa's department of environmental affairs stated that the the "will to do right is with us". His statement reflects on the fact that crimes related to rhinos are being given stiffer sentences and that there is now a dedicated prosecutor to take care of such criminal activities.
|Seized rhino horns on display in Hong Kong's Customs and Excise Department Offices|
I feel that this report made by TRAFFIC should be taken as an initiative for countries around the world to work together in an effort to curb the illegal poaching of rhinos and the trade in their horns. The signing of the MOU between South Africa and Vietnam may seem like good news, but what is most important is the administering of stiffer penalties against poaching and trade in illicit merchandise along with the enhancement in law enforcement in nations where rhino poaching runs rampant. In addition to that, there should also be an implementation of community outreach programs in these places in order to raise public awareness about the dangers of rhino poaching and how the public can help in order to put a stop to this ongoing threat. Countries like India and Nepal had taken and still are taking drastic steps to minimize any poaching of rhinos in their wild places. I think these countries should also form a partnership with South Africa, in order to help in the battle against rhino poachers and the operators of the illegal rhino horn trade. South Africa has in recent years been hit hard, suffering staggering losses in its rhino populations as a result of the dirty yet sophisticated work of these well-organized poaching syndicates. As long as the ongoing bloodbath continues, the impact would affect the nation's tourist industry and its reputation as a haven for Africa's wildlife. The clock is ticking.
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