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WWF South Africa has welcomed the news that the Ministry of Health in Vietnam has agreed to work with the Traditional Medicine Association to address the use of rhino horn products for medicinal purposes.
This development has arisen out of a of workshop in Hanoi hosted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, and WWF Vietnam which was funded by WWF-SA to highlight the reality of illegal trade and the current rhino poaching crisis in South Africa.
At this workshop, over 100 participants, including traditional medicine practitioners, academics and representatives of the Ministry of Health, were in attendance. The second workshop is to be held on May 16.
According to a press release issued by the Vietnamese Ministry of Health, TRAFFIC and WWF Vietnam, participants heard from the President of the Cancer Association of Vietnam that there is no evidence supporting the idea that rhino horn can cure cancer. Effective alternative remedies involving herbs were also discussed.
Dr Jo Shaw, Manager of WWF South Africa’s rhino programme, described this engagement in Vietnam as a significant development that could make a material difference to the illegal trade in rhino horn.
“We are concerned by the latest statistics released today by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, showing that 376 rhinos have been poached already this year, an increase on the record-breaking rate seen in 2013” said Dr Shaw.
“It is encouraging for us in South Africa to see the way in which this initiative has been received in Viet Nam and now we look forward to seeing the agreements being enacted”, she added.
Towards the end of the workshop, participants agreed to draft a recommendation by the Traditional Medicine Administration with a message to say “No” to the use of rhino horn and other endangered species. Next steps will include a discussion to identify the best way to communicate this message to people using rhino horn for medical purposes throughout the country.
“We are extremely pleased to see the commitment of the Ministry of Health in Vietnam towards the fight to save rhinos and the strong steps being taken to ensure existing regulations and commitments are adhered to” said Dr Naomi Doak, Coordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme.
“We are at a turning point for these animals and without working together we could well face a world without them,” she said.