Connect to share and comment

A guide to the dynamic economics, politics, and culture of the world's most populous region.

Asian rhino horn mania drives extinction

Last of Vietnam's rhinos shot dead. And Thai prostitutes posing as game hunters?
Rhino horn 2011 11 04Enlarge
Two male rhinos lock horns playfully while pasturing in the savanah at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Southeast Asia's rhino horn trade is bizarre as it is sad.

Vietnam is blamed in a new World Wildlife Fund for "record poaching" in South Africa.

Why South Africa? It's among the world's last sizable refuges for rhinos.

Why Vietnam? Because superstition there dictates that rhino horns have amazing medicinal powers. Such as the ability to cure cancer.

These far-flung regions, Southeast Asia and South Africa, have established an unsettling trade route. There is one rhino species native to Vietnam, according to the World Wildlife Fund. But it is now extinct, the species' last beast found dead with a missing horn and bullet holes in its legs

“The unfounded rumour that rhino horn can cure cancer most likely sealed the fate of the last Javan rhino in Vietnam,” said WWF rhino expert A. Christy Williams in a statement.

It gets weirder.

An expose from the South Africa's Carte Blanche investigative TV show, also featured in the Bangkok Post, contends Thai sex workers have been flown to South Africa to pose as big-game hunters.

According to the reports, a Johannesburg-based Thai man is accused of exploiting a legal loophole that allows "trophy hunting."

Court documents cited by the Bangkok Post suggest that all he needed were warm bodies to pose with dead rhinos and sign documents promising they'd hunted them fair and square.

The rhino horns, of course, were destined for the illicit wildlife market back in Asia. 

The Post also cites an expert insisting the market rate for rhino horn is about $93,000 per kilogram. That could fiscally justify this bizarre charade: pulling ladies off the go-go pole in Bangkok and flying them to the African savannah. 

South Africa's Carte Blanche investigative program, which has most aggressively investigated the allegations, interviews one of the Thai women in this video at the 4:40 mark.

 

 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/asian-rhino-horn-mania-drives-extinction