By Franz Wild
South Africa has barred Vietnamese nationals who have applied to hunt rhinos in the country because it hasn’t been assured that they won’t illegally sell the animals’ horns, which are worth more than their weight in gold.
All 23 rhino hunting applications by Vietnamese residents this year were rejected, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental and Water Affairs, Edna Molewa, said in an interview yesterday. Hunters from the southeast Asian nation didn’t convince South Africa’s government that they would adhere to permit regulations, which stipulate that trophies can’t be sold, she said. The number of rhinos poached in South Africa is projected by the government to rise to a record this year.
“A majority of the people that are being arrested here, a lot of the permits that are being applied for here, come from Vietnam,” Molewa said at the Israel-sized Kruger National Park in South Africa’s northeast. There is “no clear record of proper processes that need to be followed.”
Nearly 60 percent of the rhino hunting requests since the beginning of 2010 have come from Vietnam, where rising prosperity has fostered demand for the horn, which some believe can cure ailments including cancer, according to the government. Made out of the same matter as hair, the horn fetches as much as $60,000 per kilogram.
About 90 percent, or 20,000, of the world’s rhinos are in South Africa, which is tightening regulations on hunters, asking Vietnam and China to help them clamp down on the illegal trade in horns and creating a rhino DNA database which will help link horns sold to animals killed.
With 159 rhinos already poached this year, the number of the animals that are illegally hunted may increase to 619 from an all-time high of 448 in 2011, according to the ministry. At the current rate of slaughter, rhinos in the wild face extinction by 2025 in Africa, conservationists including the African Wildlife Foundation said in a statement released in Nairobi, Kenya on April 3. Ninety people have been arrested so far this year in connection with illegal rhino hunting.
South Africa has set up a task force uniting government, national parks, police, prosecutors and private operators, and the army to stem the tide.
The Vietnamese government says it has agreed to do a count of rhino trophies brought home by its residents to check whether they still have their horns. More....