Corrupt insiders big in rhino poaching
The increasingly sophisticated weapons and tactics that rhino poachers use suggest that they are getting help from corrupt wildlife officials, a report said.
The South Africa-Vietnam Rhino Horn Trade Nexus report, released in Johannesburg yesterday, said these "developments" had identified a "new face" in poaching.
"Rhinos are usually killed with AK-47 assault rifles but a growing number are killed with weapons characteristically used by wildlife industry professionals," read the report.
The report was compiled by the UK-based wildlife trade monitoring NGO, Traffic.
"Such developments represent a 'new face' in poaching, underscoring the emergence of corrupt game industry insiders who become active players in the crisis with government officials turning a blind eye to 'pseudo-hunting'."
The document added: "From 2003 there has been an increase in non-traditional hunters, especially Vietnamese, purposefully exploiting legislation loopholes to obtain hunting trophies."
Vietnamese hunters account for 48% (185) of the 384 registered hunters paying $22-million to hunt rhino between 2009 and May.
The abuse has become so bad that South Africa's hunting associations have warned their members to avoid Vietnamese clients, and the Environmental Affairs Department has suspended issuing hunting permits to Vietnamese.
Traffic spokesman Richard Thomas said that, because Vietnam is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, it has an obligation to eliminate the trade in rhino horn.
The report was compiled to help develop solutions to the scourge.
South Africa is Vietnam's primary source of rhino horn, which is used to treat ailments such as cancer, high blood pressure and impotence.
Traffic's programme officer, Jo Shaw, said that though the first signs of a rhino-poaching crisis were visible a decade ago, "few predicted the magnitude of the problem we face today".
"The surging demand, high prices and little fear of capture have allowed criminals to create the 'perfect storm' for rhino poaching," he said.
The report said the value of white rhino traded in South Africa was over R236-million.
The number of white rhino auctioned and hunted for sport steadily increased by 1300 between 1995 and 2011.
Between 1990 and 2005, an average of 14 rhino were poached every year.
Last year, 448 rhino were killed by poachers.
"The increase represents an unprecedented conservation crisis," said Shaw.