Rhino poaching by Africans for Asiatics, who backwardly believe that the animal’s horns contain sexual stimulants and cancer-curing abilities, is threatening the continued existence of that species in Africa, a new report has revealed.
White Rhino carcass.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG), the number of African rhinos killed by black poachers—mainly from Mozambique—has increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 rhinos killed in 2015.
This is the highest level since the current crisis began to emerge in 2008, the AfRSG report said, adding that in the last eight years, poachers have killed at least 5,940 African rhinos.
“There is worrying evidence of the increasing involvement of Chinese citizens along with nationals from South East Asian countries like Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, as well as North Korea, in the illicit trade in rhino horn,” the AfRSG report continued.
“The extensive poaching for the illegal trade in horn continues to undermine the rhino conservation successes made in Africa over the last two decades,” Mike Knight, of AfRSG, added.
Rhino horns taken from a carcass.
The continued poaching has impacted rhino numbers. According to the report, there are only between 19,682 and 21,077 white rhinos left in Africa, and between 5,042 and 5,455 black rhinos. The black rhino is already officially on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as “Critically Endangered.”
South Africa currently has 79 percent of Africa’s rhinos and has suffered the bulk (85 percent) of poaching on the continent since 2008. The country’s vast Kruger National Park is home to the world’s largest rhino population and has borne the brunt of the killing.
Most of the poachers operate out of Mozambique, which shares a two hundred mile border with the Kruger National Park. The AfRSG report said that Mozambique “has been heavily implicated in much of the poaching and trafficking of horn.”
Vietnam’s appetite for rhino horn is so great that it now fetches up to $100,000 per kilogram, making it worth more than its weight in gold. Rhino horns average around one to three kilograms each, depending on the species.
Rhino horns smuggled in luggage.
Vietnam: Poster advertising rhino horn “grinding bowls” for sale.
Cutting a piece of rhino horn in the street in Hanoi.
A “grinding bowl” for rhino horn.
Drinking rhino horn powder and water from a “grinding bowl”.
According to a separate report titled “The South Africa – Viet Nam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus: A deadly combination of institutional lapses, corrupt wildlife industry professionals and Asian crime syndicates,” issued by the wildlife preservation group Traffic, even the Vietnamese embassy in Pretoria is involved in the horn trade.
“A large proportion of this activity appears focused on air passengers travelling from southern Africa to Southeast Asia. In some instances, the syndicate’s dealers also have overt links to the diplomatic community, including commercial alliances with diplomatic personnel, access to vehicles bearing diplomatic plates for the risk-free movement of rhino horn within the country and, possibly, the use of a diplomatic pouch to move contraband to home markets,” the Traffic report said.
“The Vietnamese Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital city, has been repeatedly implicated in the illicit rhino horn trade. The involvement of Embassy personnel first came to light when Viet Nam’s Commercial Attaché, Khanh Toan Nguyen, was arrested on April 1, 2006 with two rhino horns, as well as diamonds and large sums of cash. Under interrogation, this individual allegedly indicated that he had used a diplomatic bag to move rhino horns to Viet Nam on previous occasions.”
The most sensational and public case, however, involved Vu Moc Anh, the Embassy’s First Secretary, who was filmed by the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s “50/50”, a weekly investigative journalism program, conducting a rhino horn transaction right in front of the Viet Nam Embassy in Pretoria in September 2008.
Vietnamese embassy employee in Pretoria, captured on film trading in rhino horn.
- All illustrations from the Traffic report “The South Africa—Viet Nam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus: A deadly combination of institutional lapses, corrupt wildlife industry professionals and Asian crime syndicates.”