Posted on 2019-10-11 07:29:50
I was thinking about World Rhino Day and the distressing slaughter of our rhino when I came across an article from The Conversation headed “We asked people in Vietnam why they use rhino horn. Here’s what they said”. The Conversation generously allows its information, written by experts, to be used freely as long as acknowledgement is given. Vietnam contributes enormously to the killing of wild rhino. In 2018, 1,100 rhino were slaughtered by poachers. Some months ago, it was estimated that there were only about 29,500 left in the world.
The Vietnamese government has made some efforts to curb the demand for rhino horn and in 2015 increased sanctions on illegal trade, but superstition triumphs over legal threats, and the use of rhino horn is blatant. Conservation organisations have tried to educate Vietnamese purchasers by emphasising that rhino horn plays no role whatsoever in either healing or in sexual prowess. Their appeals have had little effect.
Multiple reasons are given for the purchase of rhino horn, social status being a leading one, as the horn is so expensive. It is used to treat hangovers, gout and serious illnesses.
Purchasers believe that feeding seriously ill people powdered rhino horn will make them feel that everything possible is being done to help them.
Superstition that rhino horn has magical qualities is so firmly entrenched that there is no concern about eliminating Africa’s rhino population. It is so powerful a status symbol that it is widely used among professional people and given as a reward in business deals. Whole rhino horns are often donated as a way of gaining favours from powerful people.
Baby rhino are doomed when their mothers are slaughtered as they are totally unable to look after themselves and die either from lack of nourishment or fall prey to predators.
There is absolutely no stigma in Vietnam attached to using rhino horn. Africa is a long way from Vietnam, and users feel uninvolved because they are not personally involved in killing the rhino. (We can’t say the same about hunters who come to our country to engage in ‘canned hunting’ and pay vast sums to kill lions raised on ranches for that purpose. Shame on us.)