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WWF Statement on Rhino Decisions at CITES

Carlos Drews, head of WWF’s delegation at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) issued the following statement today in response to decisions from world governments to offer better protection for rhinos:

“Governments today made a clear choice at CITES to offer more protection to rhinos by agreeing on timelines that will help two of the worst offenders in the rhino horn trade, Vietnam and Mozambique, clean up their act.

"This is a big step forward for the protection of rhinos, a prehistoric animal that are being butchered for their horns at alarming rates to feed demand primarily in Vietnam.

"A record 668 South African rhinos were killed by poachers last year, and close to 150 have died so far in 2013 - we're already moving at a pace that could see even more rhinos killed for their horns than last year.

“The challenge now is to ensure that Vietnam and Mozambique make progress on their CITES commitments within the agreed time frame to avoid trade sanctions in the summer of 2014.”

Vietnam is the main destination for rhino horn and is now required to implement a strategy to reduce demand in the country and ensure horn traffickers are prosecuted and strongly punished.

Today’s success also means that Mozambique, a major transit country for rhino horn, must strengthen legislation and enforcement to reduce trade flows exiting the African continent. It is currently only a misdemeanour to smuggle rhino horns through Mozambique. The country shares a border with South Africa’s Kruger National Park, home to most of the world’s rhinos and also the epicentre of illegal killing.

Rhino poaching has hit record highs and is currently exacerbated by increasingly sophisticated criminal networks. There is also a marked increase in consumption in Vietnam, fuelled by claims that rhino horn cures cancer and hangovers.