Vietnam is listed as one of the world's largest consumers of rhino horn, which makes them a top contributor to the poaching of rhinos in the wild. Just last year in Africa, there were 1,100 rhinos killed by poachers and today, there are around 29,500 left in the whole world.
Efforts have been made to reduce the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam. In the year 2015, the Vietnamese Government increased sanctions on illegal trade and the use of rhino horns. Variety of campaigns were made, and conservation organizations have tried to educate the Vietnamese about Africa's rhino poaching problem and how rhino horns have no significance in the medical industry.
A study was conducted to shed a light on why Vietnamese consumers use rhino horn. It showed that people used rhino horn for numerous purposes, the main one is that they use it for medicine, and it solidifies a person's status symbol. They believe that rhino horns can treat hangovers and they also use it to honor their terminally ill relatives.
Vietnamese consumers also prefer wild rhino horn over farmed rhino horn, and they are not affected by stigma or the concerns about the alarming rhino populations. The findings suggest that the overall demand for rhino horn is not going to decrease anytime soon because of the beliefs of the people that are entrenched.
There are 30 rhino horn users that were interviewed and one rhino horn trader. They all came from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. The people who participated in the interview said that they used rhino horn as medicine for various ailments including fever, hangovers, gout and terminal illnesses like store or cancer. There are some people who gave rhino horns to terminally ill people to console them and it is a symbol of them doing everything in their power to help the terminally ill.
The study showed that the belief that rhino horns have healing properties is deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. Aside from being used as a medicine, it is also considered as a status symbol. Consumers said that they shared the rhino horns within their professional and social networks to show their wealth and strengthen business relationships. Giving a whole rhino horn as a gift was also used as a way to get favors from the higher-ups.
Unfortunately, campaigns against the use of rhino horns are not working as the arguments that they use fail to convince the consumers to stop using rhino horns. Further studies are still being done to promote behavioral change in Vietnam.