BEIJING, CHINA —Wildlife experts and conservationists from China, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom, including representatives from Humane Society International/UK, gathered in Beijing today to call for urgent action from China to help save the world’s rhinos from poaching. Hundreds of rhinos are poached for their horns every year largely to supply the Asian traditional medicine market.
The Rhinos In Crisis conference, organized by Beijing’s Capital Animal Welfare Association with the support of Humane Society International, is one of the largest gatherings of international rhino conservationists ever held within China. Their message to China: Rhinos are being poached out of existence, and Chinese consumers’ demand for rhino horn must end.
“Rhino poaching has reached a crisis point with animals being brutally slaughtered in huge numbers to supply horn for the Asian medicine trade. It’s vital that China takes urgent action to eradicate consumer and business demand for horn which has no scientifically established medicinal benefit whatsoever,” said Mark Jones, executive director of HSI/UK. “China is a crucial partner in the global battle to save this endangered and iconic animal from extinction. If it doesn’t act now, this species is unlikely to survive the crisis. That would be tragedy for the whole world.”
Rhino poaching has skyrocketed in recent years. In 2007 there was a global average of 12 poaching incidents reported annually. By 2011 in South Africa alone, 448 rhinos were killed for their horn and predictions are that around 600 rhinos will have been killed by the end of 2012. There are now fewer than 30,000 rhinos in Africa and Asia combined and four of the five surviving rhino species are listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List as threatened with extinction.
Demand for rhino horn in Asia has reached new heights following unsubstantiated claims that a Vietnamese official was cured of cancer by using rhino horn. Reports suggest that rhino horn is selling for up to $65,000 per kg on the black market.
“Rhinos die from massive blood loss, pain and shock after their horns are hacked off by the poachers. The few that survive endure months of painful treatment,” said William Fowlds, wildlife vet and chairman of the Association of Eastern Cape Private Nature Reserves. “We are certain that the Chinese people would not want to be associated with this barbarity, and we urge them to assist us in the fight to stop the poaching.”
Unscrupulous poachers show no mercy even for infant rhinos. They are either killed for their tiny stump of horn, or left traumatized after witnessing the slaughter of their mothers.
“We know that Chinese people care about animals too, and we’re desperately hoping that by communicating to them the impact that rhino horn consumption is having on our precious rhino, they will respond quickly and with compassion, as they have often done before,” said Karen Trendler, co-ordinator of the Rhino Response Strategy in South Africa, which rescues calves orphaned by the poaching.