Published 20 October 2010


South African delegates visit Viet Nam to address illegal rhino horn trade

Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 20th October 2010—This week five representatives from South Africa are in Viet Nam to discuss ways to address the growing illegal trade in rhinoceros horn from South Africa to Viet Nam.

South African officials are visiting Viet Nam to dicuss ways to tackle the crisis which this year has seen one rhino poached every 30 hours in South Africa. © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

The delegation represents key government departments involved in monitoring and enforcement in the rhino trade in South Africa.

They will meet with Vietnamese counterparts in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City to learn more about national policies and how cases of illegal horn trade are dealt with in Viet Nam.

The aim of the trip, facilitated by TRAFFIC, is to increase collaborative law enforcement between the two nations in order to stop the illegal trade in rhino horn.

South Africa has lost nearly 230 rhinos so far this year, one rhino every 30 hours, the worst conservation crisis over the last two decades.

It’s vitally important to scale up Africa’s law enforcement efforts and link with Asia in the fight to save the world’s rhinos”, says Tom Milliken, Regional Director for TRAFFIC in East and Southern Africa.  

“We’ll only win this war if both sides align against the criminal syndicates behind this trade.”

Viet Nam has been increasingly implicated as a main driver of the illegal rhino horn trade in Asia, and a major trade route has emerged connecting illegally killed rhinos in South Africa with consumers in Viet Nam.

In 2008, a Vietnamese diplomat working for the embassy in South Africa was filmed making an illegal purchase of rhino horn. In another incident, a Vietnamese man was sentenced in July 2010 to three years in prison for trying to smuggle five horns weighing 18 kg through Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport.

While Asian rhinoceros have likely been extirpated in Viet Nam, in part due to poaching for their horns, there are still important wild populations of rhinoceroses in Africa, especially South Africa where about 90% of all rhinos are found. Some ownership of rhino horns from trophy hunting is allowed, under strict regulations, but it is illegal to trade the horns commercially. 

In Viet Nam, the lack of a system to register and track privately-owned horns could be allowing them to enter the trade illegally.

Throughout parts of Asia, rhino horn is believed to cure a range of ailments, with some claims that it can cure cancer. In Viet Nam, rhino horns (including fake horns) are being sold through traditional medicine stores, hospitals, and online sites.

The South Africa visit is being hosted by the Viet Nam CITES Management Authority, with support from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is the primary international agreement regulating the trade in wildlife. 

The visit was made possible through the financial support of WWF-Germany, WWF African Rhino Programme and the US Government, who made a commitment to support such an initiative at the March meeting of CITES.

TRAFFIC works to support government agencies in law enforcement networking across Asia and globally to combat illegal wildlife trade. Technical assistance across the enforcement continuum, including facilitation of inter-governmental dialogues, engaging the judicial sector, and working with WWF to improve linkages from national level agencies to field-based rangers, is provided on demand to member countries of the ASEAN and South Asia Wildlife Enforcement networks, as well as to China and its immediate neighbours. 


A report on the rhinoceros trade in Africa and Asia by the IUCN Species Survival Commission, African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups, and TRAFFIC can be found here.