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Rhino conservation gets further boost

As part of Konica Minolta’s support of the WWF’s efforts to fight rhino poaching, the brand made a R238 300 contribution to the wildlife organisation’s African Rhino Programme and the Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS), a DNA database that matches seized rhino horns with carcasses from national parks, reserves and game farms.

“Last week was a black week for everyone who cares about the conservation of our rhinos,” said Alan Griffith, Konica Minolta MD, referring to a dramatic increase in the number of rhinos poached during November. “But we can’t become disheartened after one black week.”

“Konica’s commitment is almost unparalleled in the corporate world in terms of how invested everyone is in this cause and in supporting WWF, and we appreciate that so much,” said Puleng Mosholi, corporate relations officer for business development at WWF-SA.

According to Mosholi, the number of rhinos poached thus far in 2012 has reached 560, which is roughly 100 more than the total poached in 2011, and almost double the figure in 2010.

“The fact that the trend is escalating is obviously worrying, but there is also good news with breeding programmes, meaning the population numbers are still growing,” said Mosholi. She added that Dr Joseph Okari, head of the WWF's African Rhino Programme, and Dr Cindy Harper, director of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pretoria, which works on RhODIS, had a meeting with various SADC states in October, resulting in support of the RhODIS system from about nine countries, including Botswana, Kenya and Malawi.

Mosholi also mentioned that the WWF has been in talks with representatives from Vietnam to learn more about the beliefs surrounding the medicinal properties of rhino horn. “This will help us to really investigate and understand the demand side of this problem so that we can address it in an effective way. There are a lot of dynamics at play here that we need to consider in order to strategise in a way that will bring about results,” said Mosholi.

The WWF is also actively pushing for a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Vietnam, which it hopes will strengthen prosecution across borders.

“As serious as the issue is, we at the WWF like to look on the positive side of things. We’re in this business because we are hopeful that we can solve this problem,” said Mosholi, adding that they are able to fight for rhino conservation because of the partnerships they have with corporates like Konica Minolta.

SA’s water and environmental affairs minister, Edna Molewa, is expected to sign an MoU with Vietnam to address rhino poaching when she visits the country next month.

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