RHINO HORN: THE ILLEGAL TRADE ROUTE FROM SOUTH AFRICA TO VIETNAM
There are 20,000 white rhinos in Africa today; they are classified as “near threatened”. While this statistic alone is shocking, black rhinos (who have smaller mouths than white rhinos) are classed as “critically endangered”. Only 5,000 of them remain.
With these statistics in mind, it’s unbelievable that the demand for rhino horn is increasing. Rhino horn is poached by tranquilising a rhino and hacking off the horn, leaving the rhino to bleed to death. 96% of black rhinos were poached between 1972 and 1996.
Three rhinos are poached every day in South Africa alone.
WHO ARE THE CONSUMERS OF RHINO HORN?
Vietnam has the highest demand for rhino horn. In traditional medicine it’s believed that rhino horn cures a variety of illnesses such as cancer, fever and arthritis.
Rhino horn is made from keratin, which is found in human fingernails. While scientific studies have shown that rhino horn has no medicinal properties, the demand for horn is still on the rise.
Due to an emerging middle class in Vietnam, rhino horn is now used as a status symbol and given as gifts to those in authority.
Criminal networks operating in South Africa locally produce rhino horn jewellery and powder so they evade detection by customs officials whilst trafficking ready made products to customers in Asia.
Rhino horn has become a party drug among Hanoi’s wealthy. It’s possible that the demand for rhino horn may increase alongside the economic development of Vietnam.
WHO IS FIGHTING THE TRAFFICKING OF RIHINO HORN?
South Africa hosts 79% of the world’s rhino population. Rangers in game reserves risk being shot by poachers whilst protecting their rhino population. Tumi Morema, a ranger at Kruger National Park, emphasises “no one here wants to fight a rhino war, we want to protect wildlife”, but “when my daughter grows up, if the rhino is extinct, I want her to know that her father did try to save the rhinos”.
With both gamekeepers and poachers armed in a fight to either protect wildlife or to bring home money for families, both rhino and human blood is inevitably shed in this illegal trade.
£1,700,000 was raised by Save the Rhino between 2017 and 2018, an organisation that works with both consumers and suppliers, aiming to move rhinos away from the danger of extinction.
For certain South Africans in poverty, the money earned by poaching rhinos is understandably more significant than protecting wildlife. Furthermore, the notion of rhino horn as medicine has been a Vietnamese tradition for centuries. It’s not a myth that can be easily and immediately dispelled.
Save the Rhino understand social realities surrounding rhino horn trafficking and are optimistic about creating a culture of understanding: social status simply isn’t worth the bloodshed caused by the rhino horn trade.