News / Africa

New Study Profiles Rhino Horn Buyers

Rhinos with cut horns walk at a farm in Musina, Limpopo Province, South Africa May 9, 2012. The horns are removed in game parks to make the animal a less likely target for poachers.
Rhinos with cut horns walk at a farm in Musina, Limpopo Province, South Africa May 9, 2012. The horns are removed in game parks to make the animal a less likely target for poachers.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
One of the biggest markets for illegally poached rhino horns is Vietnam. Now, a new study profiles the consumers driving that demand and how they view the horns as symbols of status and power.


It’s easy to grasp just how big the demand is. In the first half of this year, hundreds of rhinos have been killed in South Africa alone.

“South Africa is home to about 75 percent of the world’s rhinos. And since 2008, has been experiencing quite a dramatic increase in the poaching of rhinos for their horns -- up from less than 20 a year to 668 in 2012 and already 635 in 2013,” said Dr. Jo Shaw, rhino coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund South Africa.

She said that demand for rhino horns existed long before the huge spike in trafficking to Vietnam and China.

“Earlier demand for horn for dagger handles in the Yemen had a very serious, negative impact on rhino populations throughout eastern and central Africa through the 60s and 70s. But since about 1994, rhino numbers have been increasing. The populations have been growing again. So I think everyone was hit a little bit by surprise by this new wave in the poaching epidemic.”

That new wave in the poaching epidemic led the WWF to fund a consumer research study, which was then coordinated by a Vietnamese branch of the conservation group TRAFFIC. It surveyed 720 people in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

“With the goal of developing a very targeted demand reduction campaign in that country, we wanted to better understand exactly who it was that was using the horn and why, so that we could begin to try and bring about behavior change,” said Shaw.

The study also shows that buyers of rhino horns are often women in their 50s, who are giving them to family members.

///   4th SHAW ACT   ///

Shaw said, “The finding from the research about this most significant user group to be addressing shows that it’s the wealthy, older businessmen, who are very successful. They still have some belief in the medicinal and functional properties of the horn. It’s seen as a kind of panacea, a cure all. [It’s] often given as a gift to other family members or particularly to business associates or people within your peer group to show one’s wealth and status.”

Only 35-percent of the people surveyed said they would never buy or consume rhino horn.
“Underneath these current users – the current target group – are another group of slightly younger, very aspirational, upwardly mobile people within the same community, who aren’t able to afford to buy rhino horn at the moment, but are very much intending to do so in the future as soon as their economic situation allows it,” she said.

The conservation groups will now use the data to develop an awareness campaign that’s not only effective, but culturally sensitive to Vietnamese. The research indicates that while rhino horn consumers are aware that many animals are being killed, they still feel’ “very disconnected” from the issue. They do not see themselves as “catalysts for the current poaching crisis.”

“We need to think carefully about how we run campaigns around behavior change. And understand that being culturally sensitive and speaking in the most influential way to the most influential people is really what will give us the biggest impact,” said Shaw.

The World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC will work closely with Vietnamese agencies in designing the rhino horn awareness campaign.

While efforts increase to reduce demand for rhino horns in Asia, much still needs to be done in Africa. The U.S. and others have launched new programs to improve anti-poaching efforts. Currently, poachers are often better armed and better equipped than game park rangers. Also, local communities will be encouraged to report any poaching they see. 

Rhinos are included in CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs