For the sixth year in a row the number of rhinos poached in South Africa has risen, resulting in a 5,000 per cent increase.
A recent study by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC found that buyers and users of rhino horn primarily consider it a status symbol and often gift it to family members, business colleagues or people in positions of authority. The research reveals that typical users of rhino horn are successful, well-educated men, over the age of 40 who live in Vietnam’s main urban centres. Another significant finding is that beyond the current consumer group there is a large “intender” group of people who are not currently buying or using rhino horn, but who expressed their intent to do so in future.
As the number continues to grow, this World Rhino Day (22 September), WWF is calling on governments to accelerate efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade – the main threat facing rhinos today. WWF-UK’s chief species advisor Heather Sohl said:
“The scale of poaching we are now seeing is extremely worrying. 618 rhinos in South Africa have already been killed by poachers in 2013, so it’s appalling to think how many may be lost to this illicit trade by the end of the year. Governments need to act with pace and in a way that fits the seriousness of the crime – this is no longer just an environment issue; illegal wildlife trade transcends national boundaries and undermines national security and economic development in some of the world’s poorest countries.”
Next Thursday (26 September) governments from around the world are meeting in New York next week for the Opening of the United Nations General Assembly. This is a crucial time for ensuring illegal wildlife trade reaches governments’ agendas. WWF will join the governments of Gabon and Germany at the UN for a high level discussion on the threats poaching and trafficking pose to biodiversity and international stability. [1\ Endnote.