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Tuesday, 24 October 2017   /   published in Rhinos

Rich Men Who Drink Rhino Horns

Posted on FB Ruth Hughes

The rhino horn trade is rooted in traditional medicine but nouveau riche young businessmen have created a different use for horn.

Lang Ong is the traditional medicine street of Hanoi. Although banned in Vietnam, Rhino horn is available for purchase. This illicit trade fuels the rhino poaching crisis. In a recent seizure, over 80 pounds of rhino horn were seized in raids in Hanoi.

Horn was once coveted as an ingredient in traditional medicne, but now wealthy young businessmen are driving the demand.

Since 2007, the non profit group TRAFFIC has studied consumption patterns in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. In 2014, 4 main groups drove demand: those who believe horn cures cancer, young mothers who use it to treat fevers, the affluent who view it as a health and hangover tonic, and rich businessmen who begift their superiors in hopes of a raise. In April 2017 ITC (International Trade Center) determined it was rich folks who used it in the family or as gifts.

Currently the trend  is for wealthy people to attend “rhino wine associations”, gatherings where they drink rhino horn powder mixed with water or alcohol. At parties, it is snorted like cocaine.

Rhino horn is believed to have cooling properties. Acording to Professor Michele Thompson, it never played an important part in traditional medicine. She says “The use of it is essentially a fad.”

In the early 1990s demand was low. Appetite swelled suddenly in 2008 with prices reaching 100,000USD/kilo when a rumor surfaced that it could cure cancer. But this has died down and it is difficult to buy horn on Lan Ong street. Now it is easily available on Facebook, online forums, or e-commerce websites.

In 2014, TRAFFIC targeted urban businessmen from 35-50. They launched the Chi Initiative which refutes the notion that horn confers power or status. This initiative focuses on the energy within every individual—energy that comes from within and not from  a piece of horn. The campaign has reached over 5 million of its target audience. The next phase will focus on government officials. The World Bank will also try to reduce rhino horn usage among Vietnam’s public servants.

In 2012, the Vietnam government signed an agreement with South Africa to control horn trafficking and in 2014, Vietnam signed The London Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade with another 45 countries. But implementation of policy has been slow.  No illeglal traders have been prosecuted. A new penal code meting out harsher punishment has been delayed.

“When rhino horn is used as a staus symbol, it’s an ideal commodity to give to a superior or a colleague, or to be used as a bribe…”

Images of carved rhino horn libation cups and a Buddha