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Activists stage anti rhino poaching protest in Pretoria

posted 22 Sept 2011, 14:16 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 Sept 2011, 14:21 ]

Amid a rhino poaching crisis in South Africa, animal rights activists stage a protest outside the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria in a bid to put pressure on the Asian governments to get involved in curbing illegal trade in rhino horn.

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA (SEPTEMBER 22, 2011) REUTERS - Protesters from animal rights groups rallied outside the Chinese Embassy in Pretoria on Thursday (September 22) demanding that the Chinese government combat Asia's illegal trade in rhino horn.

"You are not welcome in our country - China, while you kill our rhino," protesters chanted outside the Embassy.

Demonstrators cut off the horns of a mock up full size rhino placed in front of the Embassy gates.

Animal rights campaigner Miranda Jordan said she hopes the protest would evoke some reaction from the Chinese government.

"We certainly hoping to get some sort of the reaction because nobody likes to hear, outside the embassy in a foreign country, that there are people who say they are no longer welcome because of what they are doing to our national heritage," said Jordan, who is part of the People for the Liberation of Animals NGO.

Cars, cheered along by campaigners, hooted when passing the Embassy in support of the protest.

"I don't want to be part of the generation who says to their child: Yes, I did once see the rhino. To them it's like a dodo is to us," said 22-year-old Nidaa Husain, an arts student from WITS University in Johannesburg.

South Africa has lost at least 287 rhinos so far in 2011 alone, including 16 or more critically endangered black rhinos.

Most of the poaching has been in the world famous Kruger National Park, but privately owned rhinos have been targeted too.

In response to black market demand for horn more rhinos were killed in South Africa last year than the combined total over the previous decade.

In 2000 only seven poaching incidents were reported nationally. In 2010 the figure went up to 330 rhinos and by September 2011 - to 287.

The rhino horn is predominantly sold to buyers in the East. The most important use of rhinoceros horn, dating back to ancient China, has been as an antipyretic medicine to reduce fever. Powdered rhinoceros horn is, traditionally, classified as a cold drug, indicated for hot diseases and thus suitable for cooling the blood and counteracting toxins. It is believed to be effective in reducing persistent high fevers, aiding in blood clotting, and as a tranquilliser. More recently, there have been claims of it having the ability to cure cancer.

"In the last few years in Asia rhino horn for the first time has been marketed as the cure for cancer. In the traditional literature that goes back thousands of years which forms the basis for rhino horn usage never was it ever used for these purposes," said Tom Milliken from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network which works to ensure that trade in wildlife is not a threat to conservation of nature.

outh Africa is expected to host government delegations from Vietnam and China later this month to address the alarming growth on demand for rhino horn in Asia, where it's used in traditional medicine.

A visit by South African officials to Vietnam was organised last year by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring arm of WWF and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

"What we really need is collaborative law enforcement that gets the producing side, South Africa, engaged with the consumers, where the rhino horn is going. Next week a delegation of Vietnamese is coming to this country and we hope it will lead to a memorandum of understanding that will for the basis for cooperative law enforcement sot hat the investigations that start here in South Africa can get resonance in a place like Vietnam and these criminal networks can start feeling the heat on both sides," said Milliken.

The South African government in April deployed its army to the hard hit Kruger National Park, which has lost 169 rhinos this year.

Armed soldiers have brought down poaching fatalities but have pushed hunters onto private reserves.

More than 165 people have been arrested this year, and some convicted poachers have received up to 12 years in prison.