Long fight to save rhi­nos

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - Front Page -

WEM­B­LEY SAVE African Rhino Foun­da­tion founder Ni­co­las Dun­can (70) says he is yet to con­vince most Zim­bab­weans to pro­tect the crit­i­cally en­dan­gered rhi­noc­eros from poach­ers and value the an­i­mals for tourism.

“They think ‘How many fifties from tourists would it take to equal $10,000 from a poached rhino?’,” Mr Dun­can said.

Last year was the worst poach­ing toll in two decades, with at least 1300 white and black rhi­nos killed in south­ern Africa for their horns, which are sold at $75,000/kg to South East Asia’s grow­ing mid­dle classes as a sym­bol of wealth and as a false health tonic.

“It’s now mainly the Viet­namese who buy it as a sta­tus sym­bol, as full horn, or wives shear off a bit and serve it in a drink, but even their chil­dren are start­ing to use it as a han­gover cure,” Mr Dun­can said.

There is tired­ness in his voice af­ter 27 years cam­paign­ing, dur­ing which about $6 mil­lion has been raised to help pro­tect the 19,000 white and 5000 black rhi­nos left in south­ern Africa.

“In Hanoi, one bloke told a col­league he would buy the last-ever horn, as he did not con­sider the species im­por­tant,” Mr Dun­can said.

A 2009 Australia-Viet­nam trade agree­ment does not in­clude wildlife prod­ucts and the Save Foun­da­tion wants the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to in­clude it in a plan be­ing de­vel­oped af­ter an eco­nomic dec­la­ra­tion in March.

It also wants to see more polic­ing of Aus­tralian com­pa­nies in Viet­nam, where trad­ing of the rhino horn is known to be a part of ne­go­ti­at­ing deals.

In Zim­babwe, 11 rhi­nos were poached last year, but the Foun­da­tion has not given up its fight and re­cently trained its first 16 wildlife guards, who will each be paid US$250 a month.

“We also had a good year, with 70 rhino births in Zim­babwe,” Mr Dun­can said.

Zim­babwe’s gain was at neigh­bour­ing South Africa’s cost, af­ter poach­ers ex­ploited cor­rup­tion and or­gan­ised crime link to kill at least 1215 rhi­nos last year, in­clud­ing more than 700 in the Kruger Na­tional Park.

This month, 19 Save Foun­da­tion mem­bers will visit the guards pro­tect­ing 30 white and 130 black rhi­nos at the Save Val­ley Con­ser­vancy, Zim­babwe.

“I want to in­ter­view a ranger, meet his fam­ily, and hope­fully get to ex­pe­ri­ence what he ex­pe­ri­ences each day,” foun­da­tion mem­ber Lynn Vale said.

Visit www.save­foun­da­tion.org.au

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White rhi­nos are crit­i­cally en­dan­gered.

Save African Rhino Foun­da­tion pres­i­dent Ni­cholas Dun­can (cen­tre) with sup­port­ers Bryan Hughes, Nia Car­ras, Heather Atwell, Simon Ash­ton, Lynn Mur­ray and Lynn Vale.

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