Rhino horn is a status symbol in Vietnam, which is driving the poaching crisis in South Africa, the WWF in South Africa has said.
“Rhino horn consumers are wealthy and powerful, and as such, are seen as influential people within Vietnamese society,” WWF SA rhino coordinator Dr Jo Shaw said today.
“While their reasons for purchasing and consuming rhino horn are linked to an underlying belief in its medicinal properties there is a current trend of use to enhance social standing.”
The findings form part of WWF SA-funded research in Vietnam earlier this year, commissioned by the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic and assisted by marketing research company Ipsos.
Traffic surveyed 720 people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and found rhino horn was often gifted to family members, business colleagues or those in authority.
They also associated it with a feeling of “peace of mind”.
Another key finding was that a large group of people who had not bought or were not using rhino horn intended to do so in future.
Traffic Greater Mekong Programme researcher Dr Naomi Doak said: “Intenders want to become buyers and users of rhino horn as it is favoured and valued by those they want to impress.
“They have already made a conscious decision to purchase rhino horn, even though they know it is illegal.”
Over 500 rhino have been poached in South Africa this year. A total of 333 rhino were poached in 2010, 448 in 2011, and 668 last year.