Only 10 years left to save rhinos
“The rhino faces extinction within 10 years if we do not reverse this trend,” says Dr Joseph Okori, WWF's African Rhino Programme leader.
In South Africa several rhinos are killed every day for their horns.
“Villagers are at the bottom of the chain and can earn several months income through two or three days of poaching. Huge amounts of money is in circulation,” says wildlife vet Okori, who has worked on the protection of endangered species all his life.
Behind the rhino poaching boom is an increasing demand from Asia, primarily Viet Nam. Ivory consumption has risen in step with economic growth in Asia. Large amounts of illegal ivory is reaching markets in Thailand and China.
Demand for rhino horn has become so strong that criminal syndicates have plundered antique shops and museums in Europe for old horns.
“In Vietnam appliances that grind rhinoceros horns are sold for around $450,”said Joseph Okori.
To reverse the escalating poaching and to stop the illegal trade, a range of measures are required, Okori says. The demand in consumer countries must decrease sharply, and world leaders must acknowledge that wildlife trafficking as a serious crime.
Establishing trust and engaging in dialogue between authorities and village residents is also necessary to encourage locals to raise the alarm when poaching occurs.
In Namibia, for example, there is a effective information system which is reliant on cooperation with local populations, as well as a well-developed local management scheme which results in the lowest poaching in Africa. Similar ideas have begun to spread to Botswana, South Africa and Zambia, said Okori.
WWF now supports the creation of a compulsory DNA registery for rhinos. There are currently 5,600 rhinos in the database. DNA evidence is invaluable when poachers are arrested and cases are tried in court.
“We welcome the fact that the Swedish government has provided increased support for stricter border control, as well as other measures to combat smuggling and poaching. Both governments and tourists need to take more responsibility. People should absolutely not buy souvenirs from endangered species or carved ivory souvenirs while on holiday,” said Hakan Wirtén, Secretary General of WWF Sweden.