By Nicolene Smalman
Vietnam is one of the main countries at the centre of the illicit trade in rhino horn, where it has been used for many centuries in the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a cure for various “fevers”
SKUKUZA – As South African National Parks (SANParks) welcomes a group of Vietnamese celebrities, media and top business people to the Kruger National Park (KNP) over the next three days, the Department of Environmental Affairs has announced that 769 rhinos have been poached since the beginning of the year, 489 of them in Kruger.
Mr Reynold Thakhuli, acting head of communications at SANParks, said the visit, facilitated by SANParks Honorary Rangers in partnership with the Rhinose Foundation, will contribute to efforts towards the reduction in demand for rhino horn by debunking myths relating to the perceived medicinal value of rhino horn, and by exposing leading personalities to the harsh realities of rhino poaching.
Thakhuli said education and influence are important in consumer markets, but in many instances have failed because of the myths being perpetuated by those who intend to make easy money from the illegal trade in rhino horn. “We want these celebrities to have a first-hand experience of the cruelty that these African giants are subjected to, and to use their influence to discourage the demand in their home country.”
Vietnam is one of the main countries at the centre of the illicit trade in rhino horn, where it has been used for many centuries in the ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a cure for various “fevers”. Very recently, to a far greater and more damaging extent, it has been perceived as a cure for cancer, as well as a sought after status symbol and health tonic among the more wealthy sectors of the Vietnamese population.
“It is therefore our hope that these Vietnamese celebrities will use their influence in the mainstream and social media to assist in bringing awareness and in educating their fellow citizens on the damage that rhino poaching does in South Africa,” said Thakhuli.
He added that this visit is in support of a diplomatic drive to consumer countries led by the South African government to highlight South Africa’s concerns regarding rhino poaching and the illegal trade in rhino horn, which is mainly fuelled by demand from their citizens. A Memorandum of Understanding between the two governments was signed in December 2012, which inter alia promotes exchanges between the two countries.
“It is our belief therefore that this visit, the second one by a group of leading Vietnamese personalities, is continuing the process of building the bonds of friendship through co-operation and mutual respect not only from governments, but also civil society in Vietnam, and we thank them for choosing to assist us in the fight against the scourge of rhino poaching.”
The group is made up of musicians, top business people and media personnel and will spend time in the Kruger from today to Sunday.