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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 1st December 2009

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Rhino poaching surges in Asia, Africa

Geneva, Switzerland, 1st December 2009—Rhino poaching worldwide is on the rise, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The trade is being driven by Asian demand for horns and is made worse by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high caliber weapons to kill rhinos, the report states.


The illicit trade in rhino horn is being driven by demand from Asia, with Viet Nam hearvily implicated © Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon  

Since 2006 the majority (95 percent) of the poaching in Africa has occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa, according to new data.  

“These two nations collectively form the epicentre of an unrelenting poaching crisis in southern Africa,” said Tom Milliken of TRAFFIC. 

The report, which was submitted to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ahead of its 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) in March, documents a decline in law enforcement effectiveness and an increase in poaching intensity in Africa. 

The situation is most serious in Zimbabwe where rhino numbers are now declining and the conviction rate for rhino crimes in Zimbabwe is only three percent. Despite the introduction of a number of new measures, poaching and illicit horn trade in South Africa has also increased.  

“Concerted action at the highest level is needed to stop this global crisis of rampant rhino poaching,” said Amanda Nickson, Director of the Species Programme at WWF International. “We call on the countries of concern to come to COP 15 in March with specific actions they have undertaken to show their commitment to stopping this poaching and protecting rhinos in the wild.”

The report also raises concerns regarding the low and declining numbers as well as the uncertain status of some of the Sumatran and Javan Rhino populations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Viet Nam. 

“Sumatran and Javan Rhino range countries need to increase efforts to assess better the current status of many of their rhino populations - to enhance field law enforcement efforts - prevent further encroachment and land transformation in rhino areas - and improve biological management of remaining rhinos to ensure the few remaining Sumatran and Javan Rhino numbers increase,” said Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN/SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group

Most rhino horns leaving southern Africa are destined for medicinal markets in South-East and East Asia, especially Viet Nam, and also China. The report highlights Viet Nam as a country of particular concern – noting that Vietnamese nationals operating in South Africa have recently been identified in rhino crime investigations. In addition, concern has been expressed about the status of Viet Nam’s single Javan rhino population. 

However, the report does note that in some areas populations of rhinos are increasing. 

“Where there is political will, dedicated conservation programs and good law enforcement, rhino numbers have increased in both Africa and Asia,” said Dr Richard Emslie, Scientific Officer of IUCN’s African Rhino Specialist Group. 

IUCN’s Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC were mandated to produce the report by CITES.  The data collection and report writing for the report was partially funded by WWF and partners.     


Notes:

The briefing can be downloaded here.


About TRAFFIC

TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organisation working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development whose mission is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. More information at www.traffic.org

WWF

WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organisations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. 

About IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organisations. It provides public, private and non-governmental organisations with the knowledge and tools that enable human progress, economic development and nature conservation to take place together.