Here’s an interesting story from our friends at SANParks Times. We have a handful of these lined up from their recent summer edition.
René de Klerk
As the group approached the crime scene, a horriﬁc image came into full view, accompanied by the smell of decomposition. A once-majestic animal lay bloated in the ﬁeld, butchered by poachers. The horn likely smuggled to an Asian country.
This was the scene that Le Hong Nhung, a famous singer experienced ﬁrst-hand in the Kruger National Park. She formed part of a Vietnamese delegation that recently spent a week in the iconic park. Through the experience they want to educate people at home about the ruthless killing of our rhino.
This was the second visit since a memorandum of understanding between South Africa and Vietnam was signed in December 2012. It was sponsored by the Rhinose Foundation and facilitated by co-hosts SANParks Honorary Rangers, arranged to promote rhino-horn reduction in Vietnam.
It was not only an emotional experience for Nhung, but also for Vu Quyen, an environmental activist in Vietnam. She believes that that there is hope. “We work hard to reduce the consumption in Vietnam.” She hopes that celebrities like Nhung can spread the message.
It was the singer’s ﬁrst visit to South Africa. “I have recognised that it is a huge issue because rhino are getting killed every day, but it is only after this that I understand the severity of it.” She says in the past people did not really care, but things are starting to change in Vietnam. “Education takes time, changing traditional beliefs take even longer.”
Nhung believes that the basis of this education lies with youngsters. “Some 60-year-old out there will not listen to us, but if his own grandchildren tell him that what he is doing is wrong, it might just make an impact.
“We are improving legislation and Vietnamese shocked by poaching scene working with the Vietnamese Government to improve the prosecution of kingpinsand increase sentences,” Quyen said. Over the past year, awareness had gained public momentum.
Nguyen Hung Anh, vice chief of Anti- smuggling and Investigation at the General Department of Vietnam Customs says they have installed baggage-check systems at airports. One person this year has been caught with rhino horn, compared to six cases in 2013. Last year, in one incident alone, 26kg worth of horn was found. The single incident this year was just over 13kg.
Rhino horn is traditionally believed to alleviate high fevers, but more recently it has become a status symbol and health tonic among Vietnam’s wealthy, who consume it as a detoxicant to cure hangovers, explains Quyen.
“The rhino war will not be won in Africa by Africans,” said Andrew Paterson, founder and CEO of the Rhinose Foundation, “it will be won in Asia by Asians themselves – in this case by the Vietnamese – reducing and eventually ending the demand for rhino horn there. We hope to achieve this goal within 10 years – if the rhino can hold out for that long.”