World Rhino Day 2013 was celebrated on 22 September across the world – raising awareness for all five species of rhino: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos.
Poaching and habitat loss are pushing rhino populations towards the edge of extinction in Africa and Asia. Although international trade in rhino horn has been banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1977, demand remains high – fueling rhino poaching in Africa and Asia.
“Sadly, as we approach World Rhino Day on Sunday we are headed toward another year of record poaching. More than 600 rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone,” said Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International. “The criminal syndicates targeting rhinos, elephants, tigers and other species are also undermining peace, security and economic development in many countries.”
South Africa is home to more than 80% of Africa’s rhino populations and is losing hundreds of rhinos each year. In this country alone:
- 122 rhinos were killed in 2009
- 333 rhinos were killed in 2010
- 668 rhinos were killed in 2012
- 635 rhinos have already been killed since the start of 2013
Because of its transnational nature spanning source, transit and demand countries, ending wildlife trafficking requires both international collaboration between countries, and internal coordination between government agencies. WWF urges heads of state to establish national task forces consisting of police, customs, justice, defense, environment and other specialized agencies.
“Countries must take action without delay and show they are serious in the fight against wildlife crime. Only a combination of strong criminal penalties, zero tolerance of corruption and the disruption of smuggling routes will bring this plague to an end,” Leape said.
It is also essential to combat the growing demand for illegal wildlife products, which is driving poaching. WWF is calling for government-led campaigns to target consumer behaviour. WWF South Africa launched a #iam4rhinos Twitter campaign with the goal of raising 1 million tweets by 22 September about rhinos using this hashtag – to further raise awareness and support for this charismatic species.
WWF will join the governments of Gabon and Germany at the UN this week for a high level discussion on the threats poaching and trafficking pose to biodiversity and international stability.