JOHANNESBURG: South Africa and Vietnam are set to sign a landmark deal to help stem rhino poaching and the illicit trade in rhino horns, activists and a government official said Monday.
Illegal hunting of the rhino has spiked in recent years as demand surged in east Asia, especially Vietnam where the horn is believed to have a miracle medicinal value.
Global wildlife activists have been pushing Vietnam to admit the problem of illegal rhino trade in the country and to tackle the crisis.
International wildlife monitoring network TRAFFIC said a memorandum of understanding between South Africa - home of the largest rhino population in the world - and Vietnam, the biggest consumer market, will soon be penned.
"I think the heat is clearly on Vietnam. I think we are going to see some changes. The good news today is that the MOU with South Africa is about to be signed," TRAFFIC's head of rhino and elephants project, Tom Milliken told reporters.
Mavuso Msimang, a rhino issues manager with South Africa's department of environmental affairs also spoke of the collaboration between his country and Vietnam on "significant issues of bio-diversity management" in a bid to curb the export of rhino horns to Vietnam.
The deal is a partly a result of heavy lobbying by the activists.
The network did not give details of the MOU, but it is believed to centre on law enforcement.
Vietnam's deputy foreign affairs minister Le Loung Minh was last week in South Africa where he held talks over illegal wildlife hunting, trade and trafficking with his counterpart Ebrahim Ebrahim.
Almost 300 rhinos have been poached across South Africa since the start of the year, after 448 were killed last year. Their horns are suspected to have been smuggled out to Vietnam.
South Africa is home to about three quarters of Africa's 20,000 or so white rhinos and 4,800 critically endangered black rhinos.
"The bottomline is that we are not close to ending this crisis yet, we are probably going to get record numbers this year," said Milliken at the launch of TRAFFIC's latest report. - AFP