|Illegal imported Rhino horns seized. — Photo Vietnamnet.vn|
HÀ NỘI — Humane Society International - Việt Nam (HSI - Việt Nam) is calling on the South African government to honour its commitment to protect rhinos by refusing permits for an auction of rhinoceros horns.
The online auction is targeting buyers from the world’s two largest destinations for trafficked rhino horn — China and Việt Nam. The auction is being organised by John Hume, the world’s largest rhino farmer, on August 21 and the auction website has both a Vietnamese and Chinese language option in addition to English.
HSI believes there is a significant risk that horns from this auction, even if purchased legally in South Africa, may end up being trafficked to Asian consumer markets by organised criminal syndicates.
The South African government estimates that a rhino is killed for its horn approximately every eight hours in South Africa, largely to satisfy the black market demand in Việt Nam and China.
The horns to be auctioned are "trimmed" from Hume’s 1,500 farmed rhinos, and purportedly aimed at the domestic rhino horn trade, which is now legal following a ruling in April by South Africa’s constitutional court, lifting a 2009 ban.
However, in light of the suspicious language options on the site, the Vietnamese Government has reiterated in an official statement that according to Vietnamese law, rhino horn purchased at this auction cannot be legally exported to Việt Nam for commercial, medical or personal purposes.
Vương Tiến Mạnh, deputy director of the Việt Nam CITES Management Authority, said “According to Decision 11/2013/QĐ-TTg dated 24/01/2013, Việt Nam prohibits all trade in white and black rhinoceroses and their products with only narrow exceptions for purposes such as law enforcement, political, scientific research, and zoological display.”
This auction comes at a time when rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, with poachers killing 1,054 rhinos in South Africa last year, according to the government.
HSI believes any trade, such as this auction, will encourage poaching, and that any exported horns will be difficult if not impossible to monitor.
Horns illegally obtained through poaching can be easily be laundered in the legal market, circumventing efforts to protect threatened rhino populations.
Thẩm Thị Hồng Phượng, executive director of HSI - Việt Nam, said “Amidst an ongoing rhinoceros poaching crisis, HSI and the Government of Việt Nam have been co-operating successfully to reduce the demand for rhino horns within Việt Nam.
While this auction seems intent on targeting Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, HSI stands with the Government of Việt Nam in sending a strong message that rhino horn has no medicinal benefits, consumption and ownership of it contributes only to the extinction of rhinos, and those caught smuggling rhino horn into Việt Nam will face up to 15 years in prison.”
Regulations to manage South Africa’s recently-legalised domestic trade in rhino horn still do not exist and the proposed regulations rely too heavily on provincial South African authorities that have historically been wrought with corruption. — VNS