Can we save the rhino?

Just when you thought it could not get any worse…

In just over a week’s time, on 18th- 20st May, I shall be in Cape Town taking part in a meeting at the University of Cape Town on wildlife trade-related issues.  How sadly prescient that the latest figures for rhino poached in South Africa were released today, Monday 11th.  They make shocking reading.

Despite all efforts, so far the number for the first four months of this year exceeds the number for the same period last year – by a massive 18%! – In the first four months of 2015, 393 rhino have been poached compared to 331 last year. Does this foretell yet another record year for rhino poaching, following on from last year’s abysmal total of 1,215 slaughtered?

It is worth remembering that in 2007, just 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa.

For some this will reinforce their assertion that legalising rhino horn trade could be the answer:  Flood the market, secure massive levels of income, create a fortress conservation model so that rhino are better protected and poachers deterred.  For others, including myself, it means that we need to take this to a far higher level politically, including  in consumer countries.  We cannot ask more African citizens to lay down their lives to protect rhino while consumer markets do not take full and effective measures to end demand. Nor should we ask rangers to put themselves in harm’s way when their own government seems willing to risk an escalation in poaching by seeking to legalise rhino horn trade, against all logical advice.

Meanwhile in Vietnam, it has just been reported that police in the north-central Province of Nghe An have seized 31 rhino horns worth millions of dollars and arrested two men.  This is further evidence that efforts to re-educate consumers have yet to make the difference we all seek. Apparently a recent survey found that 75% of those interviewed in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City believe that rhino horn has health benefits and that one-third of people surveyed think that rhino horn cures cancer.

Vietnam has begun to take measures to try and address the situation.  For example, the commercial use of rhino horn is outlawed but rumour and superstition still persist. They are driving the illegal trade and the poaching.  Apparently there are also those who see the ownership of rhino horn as a status symbol.  The only status owning rhino horn should confer on anyone is an extremely long custodial sentence and the loss of all their assets!

I do not know what next week’s conference will deliver.  I hope, at the very least, that there will be a better understanding by more South Africans that promoting the sale of rhino horn is almost certainly going to lead to the death of more rhino but we shall see.

I will let you know how it goes.

Blogging off.


9 Responses to “Can we save the rhino?”

  1. beth Says:

    Well, it may be well worth letting the Vietnam populus know that Yew trees and hedgin has the drug companies begging as they Have found tt ‘cures/alleviates cancer- ask anyone who takes Tamoxifen- and it is often gathered from old yew cuttings in England- they can grow it there- but the most powerful is from the elder bushes- I have experts who can verify this for you if required.

  2. Gill Gilbey Says:

    Dear Will,
    It is quite obvious that the Rhino is NOT being protected in SA. Poaching seems to be a blanket term for any manner of skulduggery, are any “poachers” ever caught and asked who is the horn being sold to?
    I do not believe that the average person in Vietnam could afford to buy rhino horn .so who is ?The international leaders have let the rhino down by not coming down hard on those concerned, it is all a shameful disgrace.

  3. Nancy Says:

    The only way I see poaching ending is to stop all trade in rhino horn and Ivory. This must come from the various governments where trading in rhino.horn and ivory is big business. They must first educate the people and then set harsh sentences (sadly) to set precedents that will act as real deterrents to others. That said, it is again the governments responsibility to catch the poachers/delears within their own governments to end their own corruption. The US and CHINA are the largest consumers from what I have read, they should willingly provide the necessary resources to end wildlife trafficking at the source – AFRICA. Pipe dream maybe, hope it comes true before it is too late. I know I want to live in a world where all animals are treated with respect and compassion and are conserved and protected in the wild where they belong. Where incidentally they are of most value – tourism

  4. Francesco Nardelli Says:

    Hello Will,
    Maybe you could find some ideas here:
    Best wishes for next week.

  5. Wildlife Margrit Says:

    Just wanted to say THANKS Will, for all you and your organization do to keep wildlife in the wild. We at Nikela are so totally with you on that.

  6. david Says:

    just wanted to say keep up the good work,we need to save these precious creatures.

  7. RitaLawrence Says:

    Prince Charles seems to have influence. Interpolation should go all out after these murders.

  8. Louisa Says:

    If the trade in rhino horn is allowed SA will be signing the death warrant for the species. It’s the same when ivory was allowed to be traded the killing of elephants increased and now they too are in danger and all due too the greed from the Far East.
    The trade in rhino horn cannot be allowed… South Africa needs to sort out it’s current poaching crisis and stop thinking about making money which at the end of the day seems all they care about!
    Also China & Vietnam need to be held accountable because they are responsible for what’s happening.

  9. Jason Says:

    “31 rhino horns worth millions of dollars” wow are they really that valuable? That kind of money is crazy. But how people put money over animals is beyond me. Hopefully in the future humankind will look back on this barbaric abuse with total shame and shock. We need to wake up before it’s too late! Animals deserve our love and respect. They are not here for us to make money from.