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Vietnam calls for rhino horn research

Officials admitted that only five people were arrested in Vietnam for smuggling wildlife in 2013.

A dead rhino at the Finfoot Lake Reserve. Picture: Taurai Maduna/EWN

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK - The deputy chief of Vietnam's environmental police on Thursday called for independent scientific evidence that rhino horn has no medicinal benefits in a move aimed at reducing demand in the Asian country.

A senior delegation from the country is visiting the Kruger National Park this week to learn more about the effects of smuggling.

Officials revealed rhino horn continued to gain popularity in their country, and the penalties for poaching and smuggling are far less stringent.

The deputy chief says demand for rhino horn is rising due to the myth that it has medicinal benefits.

Speaking through a translator, he says the focus should be on reducing demand.

"We need to have the evidence to show that rhino horn has no medical effect and especially let the consumer know that rhino horn is not a magical medicine."

He says he's hopeful the World Health Organisation will produce research proving that there are no benefits to using the horns.

But the chief wouldn't say if the Vietnamese government would make a formal request for the information and instead asked the South Africa National Parks (SANParks) to intervene.

At the same time, he admitted that only five people were arrested in Vietnam for smuggling wildlife this year.

Suspects face a jail sentence of between five and seven years.

He also revealed that a person was caught at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi with six horns that weighed approximately 16 kilograms.

At present, 100 grams of rhino horn costs about R50,000 in Vietnam.

This has made the rare commodity a symbol of status amongst the country's affluent class.

Since the beginning of the year, poachers have killed more than 500 rhino in South Africa.

More than 360 rhino poaching incidents were reported in Kruger National Park alone.