HSI Viet Nam calls on South African government to shut down rhino horn auction over trafficking risk
(VNF) - Humane Society International/Viet Nam is calling on the South African government to honor its commitment to protect rhinos by refusing permits for an online auction of rhinoceros horns that appears to be targeting buyers from the world’s two largest destinations for trafficked rhino horn, China and Viet Nam.
The auction to be held on 21st August is by John Hume, the world’s largest rhino farmer, 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 organized criminal syndicates. The South African government estimates that a rhino is killed for its horn about every eight hours in South Africa, largely to satisfy black market demand in Viet Nam and China.
The horn to be auctioned is ‘trimmed’ from Hume’s 1,500 farmed rhino, 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 could not be legally exported to Viet Nam for commercial, medical or personal purposes.
Manh Tien Vuong, deputy director of the Viet Nam CITES Management Authority, said: “According to Decision 11/2013/QD-TTg dated 24/01/2013, Viet 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 is at crisis point, with poachers killing 1,054 rhinos in South Africa last year, according to the government. HSI believes that 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 all too easily be laundered into the legal market, circumventing efforts to protect threatened rhino populations.
Phuong Hong Tham, executive director of HSI/Viet Nam, said, “Amidst an ongoing rhinoceros poaching crisis, HSI and the government of Viet Nam have been cooperating successfully to reduce demand for rhino horn within Viet Nam. While this auction seems intent on targeting Vietnamese and Chinese nationals, HSI stands with the government of Viet 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 Viet Nam will face up to 15 years in prison. We hope that the South African government will play its part by denying permits for this auction to go ahead.”
VNF (According to Chinadaily)