Poaching is being carried out by well-organised crime syndicates that are also linked to weapons, drugs, human trafficking networks and terrorism. These groups have high-tech equipment, are heavily armed with automatic weapons and are backed by extremely wealthy individuals.
There is a major increase in poaching due to the insatiable demand for rhino horn on the black market in Asian countries, particularly Vietnam, where it is used in traditional Chinese medicine, for trinkets, ornaments and as a social status symbol.
Despite its illegal state, rhino horn is sold openly on the streets of Vietnam, the primary consumers being wealthy, middle aged individuals classified as the “new rich”, who turn to rhino horn as a rejuvenating detoxifying beverage for restoring general health following too much of the good life – rich food, alcohol and drugs. These are high-flying business people whose consumption of rhino horn is very much a status symbol – a piece of rhino horn fetches a higher price on the black market than its same weight in platinum or gold.
Rhino horn is considered a ‘miracle cure’ by desperate individuals who suffer from life threatening diseases, which is compounded by claims from affluent members of society that they have been cured from cancer, despite the lack of medical evidence.