618: that’s the number of rhinos killed in South Africa this year, almost double the number killed in 2010.
But there’s good news: on December 10, South African officials signed an agreement with the Vietnamese government to prevent and discourage poaching.
Under the agreement, there will be cooperation between law enforcement in the two countries, and a mutual compliance to enforce international poaching laws within both countries.
Thank you, Care2 activists! More than 37,000 Care2 members signed our petition calling on the Vietnam government to stop Vietnam traffickers.
What’s the connection between South Africa and Vietnam?
They are co-dependent: South Africa is home to about 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, while Vietnam is one of several Asian countries with a high demand for rhino horn, which is mistakenly thought to cure cancer or be an aphrodisiac, among many other healing uses.
That’s why this agreement is a huge step forward.
From Voice of America:
Richard Thomas, a spokesman for TRAFFIC, the anti-poaching organization that helped bring the two countries together for the agreement, says this is a big step in the right direction.
“The success or otherwise of the agreement will be highly dependent on the political will to implement it,” said Thomas. “If such will exists – and we’ve already seen it does on the South Africa side of the equation – but now we have official public recognition by Vietnam that there is a very real issue with illegal rhino horn trade in that country too – it means adequate resources will be devoted to having a real impact on the organized criminal networks who are behind the horn trafficking.”
Even though rhino horns consist largely of keratin, which is the same protein found in hair, human fingernails and animal hooves, they are believed to have miraculous powers to cure cancer and other diseases. And it is this superstitious belief that is driving the animals to extinction.
South Africa has deployed soldiers and investigators to the parks to fight the poachers, but the real issue is the external demand for the horns.
As Albi Modise, a spokesman for South Africa’s department of environmental affairs tells Voice of America:
“Rhino poaching is an international problem. It might be occurring in South Africa, but it is driven by the international demand. For us effectively to deal with the on-going poaching, we also realize that our approach must be multi-pronged. One of the problems we need to look at is how we engage with foreign countries like most of the Asian countries. We’ve just signed an MOU [memorandum of understanding] now with Vietnam, our plan is to sign one with China, with Thailand as well and we are in discussions with Hong Kong authorities as well.
Slowing down the pace of killing rhinos for their horns will be a long, slow process, but for now it’s important that this agreement is enforced.
Thank you, 37,000 Care2 activists, for your contribution to prevent rhinos from going extinct.
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Photo Credit: gerdavs(on and off)