Africa Geographic's

  • by: Africa Geographic
  • recipient: The Vietnamese Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary: H E Mr Nguyen Manh Hung

The Vietnamese use rhino horn in traditional medicine - which is driving the trade in and illegal killing of South Africa's rhinos. The Vietnamese government needs to launch awareness campaigns to educate their citizens about the impact of this trade on rhino populations and about the fact that rhino horn has no healing properties whatsoever. The aim is to destroy the market for the horn and, with it, the incentive to poach.

Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary: H E Mr Nguyen Manh Hung
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
87 Brook Street

To The Vietnamese Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary: H E Mr Nguyen Manh Hung

According to the latest statistics, 200 rhinos were killed illegally in South Africa between January and July 2011, a period of just seven months. In 2010, 333 were poached. They are being brutally and cruelly slaughtered for their horns, which - as we're sure you are aware - are smuggled to Vietnam and China to be used in traditional medicine. But, Africa's two rhino species are endangered and trade in rhino products is illegal under the regulations set out by CITES (the Convention on International Trades in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna), to which both South Africa and Vietnam are signatories. As concerned citizens of South Africa - and the world - we, the undersigned, call on you to help us uphold the law and protect our natural heritage.

We, the undersigned, specifically urge you to:

Increase security. We note with concern that South Africa's Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and Minister of Public Security of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Gen Le Hong Anh made no mention of rhino poaching in the Letter of Intent signed between the two countries in June 2011.
We believe that increased security in the form of stricter border controls, more thorough customs searches, increased police co-operation and harsher prosecution in both South Africa and Vietnam will help to combat the illegal killing of rhinos. There needs to be greater cooperation with South African law enforcement to allow it to follow the trail of illegal goods to Vietnam, and Vietnamese nationals found guilty of trading in or using rhino horn products must face harsh penalties.

Implement a nation-wide education campaign. We urge you to conduct an extensive public-awareness campaign aimed at changing the habits of the Vietnamese who buy and consume rhino horn. They need to know that rhino horn is an illegal product. It is a criminal offence under Vietnamese law to trade, use or consume any part of an endangered animal and those convicted of this crime can face imprisonment and large fines. They must be made aware of the terrible price that is being paid by rhinos to provide a product with no medicinal value - it does NOT work. We accept and respect that every culture has its own medicinal beliefs, but there is no health benefit to using rhino horn - it is made of keratin, which is the principal ingredient in finger nails and human hair. The remarks of a Vietnamese official that rhino horn cures cancer must be discredited.

There have been some positive developments. In October 2010, officials from the government of Vietnam met with the South African Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit and discussed ways to curb the illegal trade in rhino horns, with emphasis on understanding the trade and strengthening enforcement. Horn-tracking equipment has been donated. But, these steps do not go far enough.

A legally binding Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Vietnam aimed at combatting the trade, sale and use of rhino horn must be signed and implemented without delay.

In South Africa a rhino is brutally killed every 22 hours. There is no time to waste!

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