Viet­nam de­stroys mass rhino horns and ele­phant ivory

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Viet­nam de­stroyed nearly 2.2 tons of seized ele­phant ivory and 70 kg of rhino horns on Satur­day, in one of its strong­est moves yet to stop il­le­gal wildlife traf­fick­ing.

The spec­i­mens, es­ti­mated to be worth more than $7 mil­lion on the black mar­ket, came from about 330 African ele­phants and 23 rhi­nos, said UK-based Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional (HSI), which has been work­ing with the Viet­namese gov­ern­ment since 2013 to re­duce de­mand for rhino horn in the coun­try. Viet­nam is a tran­sit point for ele­phant ivory for con­sumers in mostly China and the United States to make jew­ellery and home dec­o­ra­tions, while the South­east Asian na­tion is a ma­jor con­sumer of rhino horn.

“The de­struc­tion to­day is a clear in­di­ca­tion of our gov­ern­ment’s political de­ter­mi­na­tion to ful­fil our in­ter­na­tional duty in con­ven­tions to pro­tect wildlife,” said Ha Cong Tuan, Viet­nam’s deputy agri­cul­ture min­is­ter.

The us­age and trad­ing of rhino horn is a crim­i­nal of­fence in Viet­nam, but de­mand is strong due to a long-held be­lief in rhino horn’s med­i­cal power as an elixir, espe­cially among the coun­try’s grow­ing mid­dle and up­per classes. Yes­ter­day’s event added Viet­nam to a list of 20 other coun­tries that also have crushed or burned seized ivory and rhino horns.

“The il­le­gal wildlife trade is very se­ri­ous, or­gan­ised crime,” Bri­tish Am­bas­sador to Viet­nam Giles Lever said.

“The more ef­forts which Viet­nam and the Viet­namese gov­ern­ment can have to work­ing with other coun­tries to stop the il­le­gal wildlife trade, I think that will re­ally help Viet­nam’s in­ter­na­tional im­age.”

The African ele­phant faces an un­prece­dented poach­ing and traf­fick­ing threat. Be­tween 2010 and 2012, an es­ti­mated 100,000 ele­phants were killed il­le­gally to meet global de­mand for ivory, HSI said.

Over the past decade, poach­ers killed more than 6,000 rhi­nos across Africa, with more than 1,300 poached in 2015 alone. With only about 29,000 rhi­nos of five species re­main­ing in the wild, rhi­nos are fac­ing a cri­sis, ac­cord­ing to HSI.

“If we could do some­thing to re­duce de­mand here, re­duce de­mand in China, maybe wipe it out, that will help rhi­nos in Africa,” said Teresa Telecky, di­rec­tor of the wildlife de­part­ment at HSI. — Reuters

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