A celebrated Vietnamese singer is in South Africa to observe rhinos in the wilderness and speak out against the rampant poaching of the animal and the use of its horns among Asian countries, including Vietnam.
Singer Hong Nhung and other members of a Vietnamese delegation have witnessed first-hand the crisis facing South Africa’s rhinos as a result of the widespread poaching of the endangered animals for their horns, mainly to meet consumer demand from Vietnam and other Asian countries.
During the trip, which started last Monday, the delegates visited Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa.
The park has lost at least 418 rhinos to poachers so far this year.
Nhung also met with the park’s authorities, rangers, and conservation groups to understand more about the difficulties they face in their efforts to protect rhinos.
On Saturday, the singer and her delegation were taken by helicopter around the park, where they came upon the grisly scene of a recently killed rhino.
“I was really shocked at the sight, which is the most horrendous I’ve witnessed in my life. The poor rhino’s horns were chopped off and its bloody carcass was dumped in the bush,” Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), the trip’s organizer, quoted Nhung as saying.
The slaughtered rhino was the 758th to be killed in South Africa this year.
“It’s time we put an end to rhino poaching and killing. We must do what we’re supposed to do in Vietnam: eliminate consumer demand for rhino horns so that no more rhino will be killed,” the singer, who is considered a diva of Vietnamese music, urged.
This is the second year that the Rhinose Foundation, a South African non-profit trust dedicated to rhino conservation, and ENV, a Vietnamese non-profit conservation organization, have jointly organized such a trip.
The trips were aimed at fostering links between South Africa and Vietnam, and to raise Vietnamese people’s awareness of the issue through celebrities. This year the organizer hopes to arouse even more media interest, in order to convey the shocking reality to the Vietnamese public and spur them into action to help protect the world’s rhinos, first by not buying the animal’s horns.
Vietnam is considered a major hub of the illegal rhino horn trade, with demand rising rapidly over the past decade.
The horns are crushed into powder and used by wealthy Vietnamese as a ‘potion,’ since it supposedly has miraculous medicinal properties. For example, some claim they can cure cancer, or act as an after-party “hangover cure.” Horns are also popular as costly gifts in business deals.
According to statistics released by South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust, the total number of rhinos worldwide has plummeted by an alarming 95 percent over the past 40 years.
Only some 25,000 individuals are left in the wild.
South Africa is home to over 70 percent of the world’s rhino population.
About 1,000 were killed in the African country last year, while 758 rhinos have already been slaughtered this year. Only 13 were killed in 2007, before consumer demand for horns began to explode in Asia, including Vietnam.
Conservationists warned that if nothing is done to stop the rapidly deteriorating situation, every rhino breed will become extinct in the next six years.
Two other Vietnamese pop singers, Thu Minh and Thanh Bui, were invited to South Africa this April to raise awareness of the issue.