Rhino-campaign to raise awareness of endangered wildlife

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An environmental NGO is handing out postcards printed in memory of a Javan Rhino that died in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park last month to raise awareness of the perils of wildlife trafficking.

The postcards are being handed out at secondary schools and at the offices of Ho Chi Minh City-based non-profit conservation organization Wildlife at Risk (WAR), the group said on June 7.

WAR is also distributing the postcards via copies of Khan Quang Do (Red Scarf) and Rua Vang (Golden Turtle), two of the country's major children's magazines.

WAR CEO Nguyen Vu Khoi said that postcards were designed to inspire people to pay more attention to wildlife protection and conservation.

"There are currently around 400 different species, including the rhino, that are endangered in Vietnam," he said. "It's vital that we all act immediately, otherwise these species could disappear forever."

WAR said it also planned to produce a special Asian Elephant postcard in the memory of the seven dead wild elephants found in Dong Nai Province's Vinh Cuu Nature and Heritage Reserve over the past year. There are about 100 wild elephants in Vietnam, the group said.

Khoi said the organization also planned to distribute tiger and bear postcards later this month.

WAR is distributing the free postcards at its office at 161A/1 Nguyen Van Thu Street, District 1,

HCMC until June 15, and then at its new office at 202/10 Nguyen Xi Street, Ward 26, Binh Thanh District, HCMC from June 21-30.

In early May, a Javan Rhino carcass was found in Cat Tien National Park in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong with a bullet in the left foreleg. Signs that the horn had been forcibly removed from its skull were also found. Investigators have yet to determine the animal's cause of death, but many experts have speculated that the evidence points clearly to poaching.

Scientists are analyzing the carcass' DNA samples. Many worry the beast was the last Rhino in Vietnam.

The subspecies of Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) is only found in Vietnam's Cat Tien National Park. Another subspecies of about 40 to 60 individuals are found in Indonesia.

In other conservation efforts, the Vietnam Environmental Police opened a 24-hour wildlife crime hotline (1-800-588-875) on June 4.

The hotline, funded by the Danish Embassy and operated by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, will receive any reports of wildlife crime or other environmental crimes.

The identities of those who report crimes will be kept confidential and the hotline is offering rewards of up to VND1 million (US$53) for tippers.

Luong Minh Thao, vice director of the Department of Environmental Police, said the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked for Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung's approval to increase the reward to VND30 million ($1,582).

Currently the hotline will just be operated in Vietnamese. The environmental police said they may consider having an English option in the future.

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