'South Africa has more rhinos than all other countries combined, but poaching has been on the rise since about 2007.'

Durban - The findings of a study commissioned by international wildlife bodies – showing a decrease in interest for rhino horn in Vietnam – has been hailed as a step in the right direction by local environmental groups.

The poll of 1 000 people interviewed in six major municipalities in Vietnam (Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Nha Trang, Can Tho) was first conducted in August last year.

A year later, after an intensive education and awareness campaign by the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Vietnam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) Management Authority, the same respondents were re-visited. The results of that poll were released yesterday.

“Demand for rhinoceros horn in Vietnam has decreased by 38 percent since the launch of (the) campaign,” said the society yesterday.

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife spokesman, Musa Mntambo, said they supported any endeavour to reduce demand for rhino horn.

“We are excited about these findings because Vietnam is allegedly one of the countries where rhino horns are destined. Creating awareness helps us here,” he said.

The society said that all rhino species were threatened by poaching for their horns, which were highly valuable in some Asian countries, particularly Vietnam. China also fed the demand.

“South Africa has more rhinos than all other countries combined, but poaching has been on the rise since about 2007. Some 821 rhinos have been poached this year so far. During 2013, 1 004 rhinos were poached, exceeding the previous record of 668 rhinos poached in 2012. In comparison, only 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2007,” the society said.

Pietermaritzburg’s Biodiversity unit leader at the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (Wessa), Chris Galliers, said a reduction in demand led to a reduction in value. “It becomes more risky for poachers to hunt animals for a product they might not sell. Combating rhino poaching is more than just fighting syndicates on the ground. This is part of that fight,” he said.



HSI explained that Vietnam had been requested by Cites to implement a communication campaign to reduce demand for rhino horn which is believed by some to have medicinal properties.

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