Wednesday, September 21, 2011

World Rhino Day


Today, conservationists are joining arms with people around the globe to support the second annual World Rhino Day.

Led by US-based Saving Rhinos LLC and Zimbabwe-based Chishakwe lanch, World Rhino Day 2011 is a global initiative that aims to involve the public in highlighting efforts to debunk medicinal myths about rhino horn and to eliminate the demand for horn.

The tradition was started on September 22, 2010 by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to encourage the public to speak out about the plight of rhinos.

Today, the WWF will support the day by joining with residents of rhinoceros range countries in calling for an end to rhino poaching which is a significant threat to the survival of the species.

The WWF says officials in South Africa, which is home to the majority of the world’s rhinos, have responded to the recent poaching by increasing protection and imposing stricter sentences on wildlife criminals.

However, the WWF says that this positive action must be met by equal commitments by Asian countries where the consumer demand for rhino horn is at a high.

In 2011, South Africa has lost at least 287 rhinos, including 16 critically endangered black rhinos.

Most of the poaching has occurred in the world famous Kruger National Park, but privately owned rhinos have also been targets for poachers.

The WWF says that law enforcement officials have made over 165 arrests this year, with some poachers facing up to 12 years in prison.

“South African authorities are taking rhino poaching very seriously and are beginning to dismantle the sophisticated criminal gangs that are behind the killings,” said WWF African Rhino Program Manager Dr Joseph Okori.

“Putting powerful kingpins behind bars for 10 or 20 years will send a strong message to others not to engage in criminal behaviour.”

Later this month, South Africa will host government delegations from Vietnam and China to discuss growing demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it is used for traditional medicinal purposes.

Also on the agenda will be deliberations on methods for greater international cooperation on law enforcement and criminal investigations.

“Asian and African governments must work together to disrupt trade chains and to bring wildlife criminals to justice,” CEO of WWF-South Africa Dr Morné du Plessis said.

“Demand for rhino horn and elephant ivory is threatening to destroy a large part Africa’s natural heritage… we want to see illegal markets for these products in Asia shut down for good.”

Dr Okori said that rangers are putting their lives on the line to protect rhinos from poachers and traders who “are motivated only by greed”.

He says the WWF calls on government leaders in Vietnam and China to play their part.

However crimes against rhinos have also spread beyond African and Asian countries.

In Europe at least 20 museums have been robbed by organised gangs that traffic the antique rhino horn.

Wildlife trade researchers have also revealed that international crime syndicates use trophy hunting loopholes to “legally” kill rhinos.

Media Investigations also suggest that China has been developing a rhino horn harvesting scheme and encouraging the consumption of rhino horn, instead of adhering to its Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) obligations.

World Rhino Day Co-organiser Lisa-Jane Campbell of Chishakwe Ranch in Zimbabwe says that the theme of this year’s day is to debunk the myths that fuel the demand for rhino horn.

“Rhino horn has no medicinal value, despite the long held belief to the contrary… rhinos are dying for nobody’s benefit – except that of the criminals involved in the poaching rings,” said Ms Campbell.

She said it is the continued belief in the curative powers of rhino horn that fuels the deadly trade, despite the fact that the horn has been analysed and does not contain any medicinal properties.

Rhino horn is made up of keratin (like fingernails) and scientists have compared the effect of consuming rhino horn to eating one’s own fingernails.

While the myth undermines successful rhino conservation efforts, medicinal myths also also endangering the lives of people who need proper medical attention.

NGOs, zoos and members of the public are encouraged to celebrate World Rhino Day with both online and offline activities that are aimed at dispelling the notion that rhino horn has medicinal value. Saving Rhinos LLC is encouraging individuals from all over the world to get involved via social media.

For more information on how you can get involved visit:

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