It’s a well written, harrowing article about the plight of the rhino, despite the brave efforts of rangers. The forces of evil are not only the killers, but the crime syndicates – notably the Chinese mafia, many of them permanently based in South Africa. Sadly, demand in the Far East is booming for rhino horns, which supposedly can cure impotence, cancer and Aids. Clearly, trades description laws don’t apply there… In Vietnam, the affluent believe taking rhino horn powder protects their livers so they can drink alcohol to excess without damage! Maybe they should check with their doctors first.
As Andrew Malone points out, the horn isn’t magical at all. It is simply compressed keratin – the same protein found in human hair and nails. So those duped individuals in the Far East would obtain just as much benefit from chewing or drinking powdered clippings from their own toenails.
It seems to me that the fight is not only against the poachers, the syndicates, and the traders, all who get rich, but also against the closed minds that believe in the ‘magical’ properties of rhino horn.
Where does Prince William come in? Next month he will attend and support a conference in Downing Street on the illegal wildlife trade on behalf of United for Wildlife. The £12billion trade in this illegal trade is presently just behind drug, gun and people smuggling in terms of illegal earnings; and of course these international crimes feed into each other.
See my blog 'more valuable than gold or cocaine' here
‘Tons of confiscated ivory will be burned’ – Hong Kong
According to the International New York Times, 24 January, Hong Kong intends to destroy 95% of one of Asia’s major hoards of confiscated ivory. China is understood to be the world’s biggest end-market for poached ivory. Twenty-eight tons of ivory held by the HK authorities is to be incinerated, beginning this year – though it will take one or two years to complete the job. One ton of the stockpile will be retained ‘for legitimate uses, such as enforcement and education’ – Reuters.
Also see my blog 'China tackles illegal ivory trade' here
I make no apology for returning to this subject, a subject which forms the core of my book
Blood of the Dragon Trees:
Andrew raised a hand in surrender. ‘I wasn’t joking when I said I was into conservation, you know.’
Laura spread more paste on her chunk of bread, studying his lips, waiting.
‘I’m working for CITES.’
‘What’s that, an eco-friendly building firm?’
‘Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.’
Endangered species, she thought, that’s worthy. She swallowed and sighed. ‘I’m not much wiser. What endangered species does Tenerife have that needs protecting?’
She felt her cheeks redden and sipped her glass of Dorada, on-tap lager beer. ‘Stick to the confession, Andrew.’
He sipped his black coffee, annoyingly taking his time. ‘Jalbala works with me. We’ve been assigned here as Tenerife seems to be a conduit, one of many, for transporting certain forbidden items derived from endangered species.’
‘You know, you talk like a politician at times. What do you mean, “certain forbidden items”?’
‘CITES banned more than eight hundred – yes, eight hundred – species. And the trade in another 30,000 items is controlled worldwide.’
‘You still haven’t told me what your “items” are.’ Despite herself, she found that her tone was bordering on exasperation.
‘I’ll give you a few for-instances, then.’
‘That would be helpful,’ she said. ‘I could do with a few for-instances right now.’
‘Tigers are being hunted to extinction, but I’m sure you know that.’
Condescending swine, she thought, and nodded.
‘Well, tiger bone is supposed to help rheumatism. The poor animal’s nose is used for treating epilepsy and its brain gets rid of pimples and cures laziness!’
‘You’re kidding me, aren’t you?’ She lowered her Dorada glass, and licked the foam off her upper lip. ‘This is the twenty-first century, you know.’
He shook his head and said ruefully, ‘I wish I was kidding. Believe it or not, Chinese stores in UK sell this banned stuff – and a lot more besides. And similar shops exist throughout Europe.’
She put out a hand and rested it on Andrew’s. ‘That’s absolutely awful. Maybe they’re only wild animals, but they’re beautiful creatures and don’t deserve to be slaughtered for idiotic reasons like removing pimples!’
Andrew sighed. ‘If it were only so simple. For over a thousand years, the poor old tiger has been known for its supposed healing powers – pills, creams, plasters, powders in traditional Chinese medicines. And it’s not just tigers they rely on for their medicines: leopard and rhino are slaughtered to pander to their needs.’
‘I know the rhino isn’t the most attractive of creatures, but even I have heard that the white rhino is close to extinction.’ She smiled, gazing into memory. ‘Their babies, like the hippos, are cute, just miniatures of their parents…’
‘Cute doesn’t cut it where big money’s involved, Laura. Not so long ago, 150 rhino horns, valued at over two million pounds, were seized in a couple of London lock-ups.’
‘I see,’ she said soberly. ‘That’s a lot of money.’
He nodded, eyes sad. ‘The tip of the iceberg.’
Blood of the Dragon Trees – pp64-67
See my blog 'endangered species' here
The Kindle e-book Blood of the Dragon Trees