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A pivotal moment in efforts to tackle the current rhino poaching crisis has taken place as the governments of South Africa and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
“WWF and TRAFFIC welcome the new agreement, which marks a turning point in efforts to protect Africa’s rhinos,” said Dr Jo Shaw, Rhino Coordinator for WWF South Africa. “We now look forward to seeing joint actions being undertaken by both countries to combat the current rhino poaching crisis”.
The MoU has been signed by H.E. Edna Molewa, Minister for the South African Department of Water and Environmental Affairs and H.E. Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, during a visit by Minister Molewa to Vietnam. The main elements of co-operation outlined in the MoU include the field of biodiversity management, conservation, protection, law enforcement, compliance with CITES and other relevant legislation and Conventions. Based on equality and mutual benefit it comes into force on the date of signature and notes specifically that illegal wildlife trafficking remains a global challenge.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, H.E. Edna Molewa said: “South Africa is looking forward to receiving the close co-operation from Vietnamese partners to stop the illegal trade of rhino horns from South Africa to Vietnam."
H.E. Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Vietnam also recognised the importance of co-operation between the two countries, stating that: "Fighting against crime on wildlife regulations especially on the rare, precious and endangered species including rhinos and its derivatives are always of concern to the Vietnam government.” He stressed: “The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in cooperation with related ministries and agencies, are submitting the Prime Minister to issue a Decision on banning the import of all rhino specimens to Vietnam in 2012.”
Although the MoU between South Africa and Vietnam refers only in general terms to addressing illegal wildlife smuggling, there are clear indications that rhino horn trafficking will be top of the new agenda on cooperation between the two nations.
“Rhino poaching is a key burning conservation issue, and through the public commitments of the two Governments at this signing ceremony today, we have seen promising beginnings of collaborative action. This commitment now needs to be turned into urgent action to turn the crisis around,” said Dr. Naomi Doak, Coordinator of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia–Greater Mekong Programme.
“The world’s rhino populations are hanging by a thread, and today the opportunity was taken to throw them another lifeline,” said Dr. Doak.