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September 23, 2013

No Time to Throw Up White Flag for White Rhinos and Other Imperiled Creatures

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the southern white rhinoceros as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a major volley in its high profile campaign to crack down on rapacious, cruel, and unsustainable poaching aimed at rhinos and elephants in Africa and Asia. If made final, the proposal will put under the act’s protection the last remaining unprotected species of rhinoceros, allowing it to join the ranks of the black, Sumatran, Indian, and Javan rhinos. Since the horns of the five species are indistinguishable, this act will close a major loophole in our trade laws, forbidding any sale of horns now worth more per ounce than gold or any other precious metal.

World Rhino Day
Children reading their "I'm a Little Rhino" books.

A growing number of governments and charities are investing in campaigns to combat poaching, conducted mercilessly by armed militias that slaughter rhinos for their horns and elephants for ivory to finance their civil wars and terrorism.

We at The HSUS and HSI are also focused on the demand side of the equation, and that’s why I told you recently about our work with the government of Vietnam to discourage people from buying this product for purported medicinal purposes. Vietnam may now be the world’s number one consumer of rhino horn, and that demand is taking a terrible toll thousands of miles away. There have been 618 rhinos poached already this year in South Africa.

Last week, in Vietnam, in celebration of World Rhino Day, we launched the children’s education component of our campaign to reduce demand for rhino horn. As Mr. Do Quang Tung, the director of Vietnam’s wildlife management authority said about our program, “When we educate children, we also educate their parents and other family members. When we reach hundreds of children, we reach thousands of adults.”

On Wednesday, hundreds of Vietnamese schoolchildren learned about endangered rhinos. “I’m a Little Rhino,” a book written for Vietnamese children by Humane Society International, teaches children about these magnificent and wonderful animals, the poaching threat and the need to stifle the demand for rhino horn in order to save rhinos from extinction. Four hundred copies of the book were distributed to children at the mid-Autumn Festival organized by the Youth Union of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Another 700 copies have been given to children at Viet Bun Kindergarten School and Le Quy Don primary School in Hanoi. Thousands of copies of the book are set to be distributed to Vietnamese school children in the coming weeks.

Yesterday was World Rhino Day, and it marked an occasion where people around the world celebrate these magnificent animals and take action to make sure they are around for our children and future generations to enjoy. It’s a new level of commitment to defend vulnerable animals whose primary weapon – because of the strange whims of human desire and the pulses of the market – has been turned into an extraordinary vulnerability, putting a price on their heads or horns like never before.


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