There are five species of rhinoceros worldwide; greater one-horned, white, black, Sumatran and Javan. Rhinoceros are found throughout Africa and Asia, although populations are declining across both continents. The largest populations of African rhinoceros can be found in South Africa and Asian rhinoceros in India.
The Javan rhinoceros formerly occupied habitats from Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and probably southern China through peninsular Malaysia to Sumatra and Java. Now however it is believed that the Javan rhino can only be found on the island of Java in Indonesia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists this species as critically endangered with a population of approximately 40 – 60 individuals.
The Javan rhinoceros was confirmed extinct from Viet Nam in October 2011 during surveillance work being conducted. Evidence collected confirms that the last rhinoceros was shot by suspected poachers in the Cat Loc area of Cat Tien national park in Viet Nam’s south.
Poaching of rhinoceros is the major threat to populations as is evidenced throughout Africa and particularly in Asia with the depletion of almost the entire species of Javan rhinoceros. Rhinoceros are hunted predominantly for their horns for illegal trade activities globally and Viet Nam is identified as a large market, as well as a transshipment point for distribution throughout Asia. The horns are either for ornamental purposes or for use in traditional medicine.
Poaching pressure escalated during the 1970s and 1980s as a result of the rising demand for rhino horn in Asia and the Middle East. In Africa alone, 60 rhinos were killed in 2006, but by 2015, the peak of illegal hunting, up to 1,349 rhinos were slaughtered for their horns, averaging 3 - 7 rhinos were shot dead every day.
In traditional medicine many people believe that rhino horn can help cure illnesses as simple as a hangover and as serious as cancer. The science community and conservation agencies have conducted analysis of rhino horn to prove that the horn is made of keratin (the same protein found in human hair and nails) and as such has no medicinal benefits. However, these attempts have been unrecognized by many consumers who also use the product as a display of affluence.
Viet Nam is considered a major consumer and trading hub for rhino horn and transnational organised crime networks exist across the world. Rhino horn is predominantly illegally imported from Africa and whilst use is widespread within Viet Nam, it is also a transit hub for a huge illegal trade across the border into China.
What are we doing?
WCS Viet Nam works with the Vietnamese government agencies to build capacity and inform policy which enables effective oversight of wildlife trade activities. We conduct research on crime syndicates, locations of illegal wildlife sale/production, smuggling routes which can help local law enforcement agencies with their investigations and arrests.
At the same time, we also conduct research and supervision of epidemics in wildlife and the possibility of disease transmission between people and wildlife.
We work closely with law enforcement agencies at national and local level including police and ranger and provide them technical assistance such as intelligence, species identification, legal advice to target high-level criminal networks.
Emslie, Richard & Milliken, Tom & Talukdar, Bibhab & Ellis, Susie & Adcock, Keryn & Knight, Michael. (2019). African and Asian Rhinoceroses-Status, Conservation and Trade A report from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC to the CITES Secretariat pursuant to Resolution Conf. 9.14 (Rev. CoP15).
Brook, S., Van Coeverden de Groot, P., Mahood, S., and Long B. (2011). Extinction of the Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) from Vietnam. World Wildlife Fund Report.
van Strien, N.J., Manullang, B., Sectionov, Isnan, W., Khan, M.K.M, Sumardja, E., Ellis, S., Han, K.H., Boeadi, Payne, J. & Bradley Martin, E. 2008. Dicerorhinus sumatrensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T6553A12787457. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 07 July 2017.