Long fight to save rhinos
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.
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.