Vietnam and South Africa sign deal to protect SA's rhinos

Wed, Dec 12, 2012, 00:00

A deal signed by South Africa and Vietnam designed to curb the rise in rhino poaching has raised hopes that the species can be saved.

Signed on Monday in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi, by top environmental officials, the breakthrough comes as figures show 618 of South Africa’s rhinos have been killed so far this year for their horns, nearly double the number poached in 2010. The horns, used as ornaments or in traditional medicines in Asia, can fetch up to €50,000 a kilo on the black market.

“The continued slaughter is a cause for immense concern,” South Africa’s environmental minister, Edna Molewa, said after the signing. “We believe that this latest development at an international level is crucial for South Africa to effectively deal with the current scourge of poaching, because the illegal hunting is largely driven by the international demand for the rhino’s horn.”

A total of 257 people have been arrested so far this year in South Africa in relation to the illegal practice, including individuals from Vietnam and China.

Vietnam’s agriculture and rural development minister, Cao Duc Phat, said his ministry was submitting a decision on banning the import of rhino parts into the country this year.

Since 2003, Vietnamese hunters are estimated to have paid more than $22 million to hunt the endangered species in South Africa, according to a World Wildlife Fund report.

The new deal has seven key areas of co-operation, which include the protection of South Africa’s biodiversity and enforcing compliance with internationally binding conventions such as Cites, a global treaty drawn up in 1973 to protect against the exploitation of wildlife.

A co-ordinator to help implement the agreement will be appointed by each country and it will remain in force for five years. Richard Thomas, from wildlife trade monitoring group Traffic, said implementation of the pact would be “down to political will”.