South Africa, Vietnam work out Action Plan to combat rhino poaching

Xinhua 29 Mar 14;

PRETORIA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- An action plan has been developed between South Africa and Vietnam in curbing rhino poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, it was announced on Friday.

This emerged from just-concluded discussions in Pretoria on issues related to biodiversity conservation and management, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) said.

The action plan is aimed at promoting cooperation between the two countries in the field of biodiversity management, conservation and protection, law enforcement, technology transfer, and other relevant legislation and international conventions on the basis of equality and mutual benefit.

The commitment by both sides to improving cooperation on biodiversity conservation, especially controlling the illicit trade and poaching of wildlife, including rhino, has formed an important part of the working visit to South Africa by a high level delegation from Vietnam, the DEA said.

The 20-member delegation was headed by Vietnamese Vice Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Bùi Cách Tuyen.

The delegation was briefed on rhino anti-poaching initiatives in the Kruger National Park, one of Africa's biggest game reserves, and were provided an insight into the research and work being undertaken by the non-governmental sector in South Africa to curb rhino poaching.

"Following the robust discussions, agreement was reached to advance the implementation of the Action Plan and to assist South Africa in meeting its international obligations," DEA spokesperson Roopa Singh said.

Pham Anh Cuong, Director of Biodiversity Conservation Agency of Vietnam, said, "Through these discussions we have learnt and exchanged many valuable lessons including that biodiversity management is unified in South Africa, the mobilization and involvement of stakeholders, as well as the establishment of joint management structures to protect biodiversity."

Rising demand for rhino horns in Asia, particularly Vietnam is believed to be the driving force for uncurbed rhino poaching in South Africa. The latest official statistics show that South Africa has lost 233 rhinos since the beginning of this year. Last year, the number of rhinos poached for their horn in South Africa totalled 1004, up from 668 in 2012.

Since 2011, South Africa and Vietnam have been actively engaging on measures to address the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

In December 2012, Vietnam and South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to strengthen bilateral cooperation on biodiversity conservation and on concerted efforts to fight poaching and illegal trade in rhino horns and rhinos.

"South Africa and Vietnam recognize the value for both countries to share information, policies and legislation on biodiversity protection and committed to further developing cooperation between the two countries in striving to address international wildlife crime and the conservation and management of biodiversity," Singh said.