Global Horn Trade Threatens Rhinos with Extinction

320px-Two_white_rhinosRhinos are in danger of extinction because of the global Rhino horn trade. With the demand for rhino horn products in China and Vietnam where they are believed to have medicinal properties, the slaughter continues to escalate. Here, Eco News Network explores some of the latest issues and developments.

In the United States, rhino horn smuggling rings have increased greatly over the past 20 years. U.S. involvement in the trade from Africa to Asia contributed to the growth in its demand in Vietnam and China. In these countries rhino horns are marketed as cures for hangovers or even cancer. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in the past year, at least 746 rhinos have been poached in South Africa and in 2012 668 rhinos were illegally killed.

In 2010 several federal organizations including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Justice Department, and the Postal Inspection Service started “Operation Crash,” a nation-wide criminal investigation that is addressing all aspects of U.S. involvement in the black market rhino horn trade.

The investigation has led to the discovery of various smuggling-rings, most recently in May when father and son, Vihn Choung Kha and Felix Kha were arrested for running an extensive smuggling ring. The Kha team represented a significant supplier world-wide, so their arrest made a big impact on the global black market.

The U.S. and Peru recently proposed a resolution at the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which all member countries agreed to ,”to make illicit trafficking in wild fauna and flora a serious crime.” This harsh stance on illegal animal trafficking can be seen in the Kha’s sentence which is 42 and 46 months in prison along with over a million dollars in fines and penalties.

In July, President Obama launched a wildlife trafficking initiative in Tanzania. The State Interior and Justice departments were in charge of devising a strategy to decrease illegal trade of wildlife throughout the world. Specifically to rhinos, the initiative included $10 million denominated for dealing with poaching in Africa.

Illegal wildlife trafficking has become a very serious problem for animal populations in Africa which have been greatly decimated. It is estimated to be valued from $7 billion to $10 billion dollars a year, making it to the list of the world’s top 5 illegal activities (right after drugs, human trafficking, counterfeiting, and arms). Animals such as, elephants and sharks have also greatly suffered.

Fortunately, awareness is increasing and more and more organizations have been getting involved. Help spread the word to save the world’s animal populations!

-Ivanha Paz

Photo Credit: Karl Stromayer via Wikimedia Commons

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