At a recent conference in Hanoi, experts delivered a message that rhino horn is not a magical medicine or a status symbol, and called for efforts to save the endangered wild animals. Report by the Nhan Dan Online.

Speakers at the event, timed to coincide with the World Rhino Day (September 22), included Deputy Chairman of the National Assembly (NA) Committee for Science, Technology and Environment Vo Tuan Nhan, deputy chief of the Hanoi Environmental Police Nguyen Viet Tien, well-known environmental journalist Do Doan Hoang, and famous actor and comedian Nguyen Xuan Bac.

They shared their experiences and findings of a ten-day visit earlier this month to South Africa, where they directly witnessed the consequences of the increasing international illegal rhino horn trade.

The trip to the world’s main source of illegal rhino horns was made to raise public awareness among Vietnamese people on the increasingly destructive global trade and to call for joint efforts to protect the remaining rhino population on Earth. It was co-organised by the Vietnam wildlife conservation organisation – Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) and the South African non-profit Rhinose Foundation.

The insatiable demand for rhino horns is the main cause for the species to fall into danger of being killed by hunters and their parts illegally traded, said journalist Hoang, adding that Vietnam is one of the three major markets where many people still believe that they can use rhino horn as a magical traditional medicine and consider it a status symbol.

He called on policy makers, relevant authorities and his colleagues in the media and the public to try their best to work for the conservation of rhino, not following an absurd reason to deplete rhinos.

“At Kruger National Park in South Africa, we saw a terrible scene – a rhino that had been shot dead for its horn only one week earlier,” said Nhan revealing that there are over 28,000 rhino individuals left in the nature globally, 25,000 of them (90%) living in South Africa.

However, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in the country has increased rapidly in recent years. So far this year, up to 635 rhinos have died at the hands of poachers in South Africa and nearly two-thirds of them killed inside Kruger, Nhan said, adding this posed the risk of disappearing forever for rhinos if effective measures are not taken to protect them.

The last rhino in Vietnam was killed in 2010, which is a tragic lesson in conserving wild species on the verge of extinction. Protecting the endangered species is not the sole issue of any country but needed the joint efforts by the entire world, Nhan suggested.

He also stressed that with the joining of Vietnam in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1994 and the implementation of the Vietnam Law on Biodiversity, Vietnam has proven its strong commitment and willingness to collaborate with other country in protecting the rhinos.

Newly ENV’s Rhino Ambassador, comedian Xuan Bac recalled his heartbroken memories in South Africa: “We visited the carcass of a dead rhino and all that remained was skin and bones. The horn had already been taken by poachers.”

“People who consume rhino are being fooled and wasting their money”, Bac said, urging for strengthened efforts to raise public awareness of rhino conservation and reinforce the enforcement of laws to prevent the illegal trade in rhino horns.

The demand from countries like Vietnam must end, said Andrew Paterson, director of the Rhinose Foundation. “We hope that the influential delegates’ experiences on the severity of the problem in South Africa will make a difference here,” he added.

In another move in response to World Rhino Day, “I’m a Little Rhino” , a book written for Vietnam children by Humane Society International (HSI), has been delivered to hundreds of schoolchildren from across the country as part of HSI’s work with the government of Vietnam to reduce demand for rhino horns.

The book aims to educate children about endangered rhinos, the poaching threat and the need to stop rhino horn consumption to save them from extinction.

Four hundred copies of the book were distributed to children during the mid-Autumn Festival organised by the Youth Union of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Another 700 copies have been given to children at Viet Bun Kindergarten School in Hanoi’s Hai Ba Trung district and those at Le Quy Don Primary School in Tu Liem district.-VNA