Rhino horn demand leads to record poaching
South Africa — More rhinos have been killed in South Africa in the past 10 months than were killed in all of 2010, new poaching numbers reveal. Statistics from South Africa National Parks show that 341 animals have been lost to poaching so far in 2011, compared to a record total of 333 last year.
South Africa's grim milestone comes on the heels of an announcement by WWF last week that rhinos have gone extinct in Vietnam. The carcass of Vietnam's last Javan rhino was found with a gunshot wound and without its horn.
At a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) last year, the international community concluded that the increase in rhino poaching has been caused largely by demand for horn products in Vietnam. Law enforcement efforts, while increasing, are not yet sufficient to protect rhinos from poachers or stop the smuggling and sale of their horns by organized crime rings.
"It's hardly surprising the horn was missing from the last rhino as Vietnam is the preeminent market destination for illegally sourced rhino horns," says Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC rhino programme coordinator.
In addition to being the biggest consumer of rhino horn, Vietnam is also a major market for tiger parts and other products derived from endangered species. Populations of tigers in the country are alarmingly low and could soon follow the Vietnamese Javan rhino into extinction.
"The unfounded rumour that rhino horn can cure cancer most likely sealed the fate of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam," says Dr. A. Christy Williams, WWF's Asian rhino expert, "This same problem is now threatening other rhino populations across Africa and South Asia."
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Image credit: John Van Den Berg