Price of rhino horn plummets in Vietnam

By VnExpress   September 29, 2016 | 11:03 am GMT+7
Price of rhino horn plummets in Vietnam
One rhino is killed every eight hours in South Africa, to serve horn demand in Asia. Photo by AFP

Conservationists slam government for failure to hit wildlife traffickers.

Rhino horn prices in Vietnam have plummeted in recent years, which campaigners against the consumption of endangered wildlife products have championed as signs that their efforts are working.

Late last year, interviews with rhino horn traders in Vietnam revealed that wholesale and retail prices for rhino horn fell to half of their 2013 prices, according to the U.S.-based wildlife conservation group WildAid. In the recent past, rhino horn fetched up to $70,000 per kilogram in Vietnam, making it more valuable than cocaine and gold.

“People who saw rhino horn or ivory as an investment are deservedly getting burned as mass awareness campaigns supported by government and private media are clearly having an impact," said WildAid CEO Peter Knights in a press release. "There is light at the end of the tunnel.” 

WildAid released the good news as global conservation groups met last Saturday in South Africa at a Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference.

Market research in China also revealed a drop in wholesale prices for raw rhino horn from $65,000 per kilogram in 2012 to $30,000 in 2015.

The Asian neighbors have been identified by international conservation groups as the world’s biggest consumers of the critically-endangered rhinoceroses - an animal they say is being poached in South Africa at the rate of one animal every eight hours or nearly 6,000 since 2007.

WildAid has targeted demand by launching a communications campaign in partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation, using TV advertisements and billboards that feature celebrities like Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, Prince William and David Beckham.

Early last year, the organization invited American actress and wildlife activist Maggie Q to speak at a conference in Hanoi against the use of rhino horn.

More than 40 Vietnamese celebrities have also gotten on board with the campaign, which sought to raise awareness that rhino horn is structurally similar to human nails and hair by holding a nail polish contest on Facebook.

Wildlife experts have slammed Vietnam’s government for doing little to end the slaughter of wildlife.

Colman O’Criodain, trade analyst with the World Wildlife Fund, recently told the Associated Press that Vietnam had resisted taking action against wildlife trafficking for years and suggested signatories to the CITES treaty ought to bring sanctions against the country. 

“For the past six years it’s been known that Vietnam is the biggest market for rhino horn," he said. "So far, over six years, there has not been a decision to suspend trade with Vietnam.” 

The rhino poaching crisis in Vietnam started around ten years ago with a rumor circulating that rhino horn cures cancer. The last known Javan rhino in Vietnam, which belonged to a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010 with its horn hacked off.

WildAid noted that Vietnam's rampant ivory trade had backed down, but the latest wholesale ivory prices in Hong Kong and China fell to 78 percent of their 2014 high of $2,100 per kilogram.

Shark fin traders in mainland China also reported an 80 percent decline in sales.

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