Independent Newspapers reports that experts say surging demand for Rhino horns is threatening to wipe out the world’s estimated 28,000 remaining animals, mainly in South Africa.
Chinese have long valued rhino horn for its purported – and totally unproven -medicinal properties, and over the last decade, rhino horn has become a must-have luxury item for some Vietnamese nouveau riche, alongside Gucci bags and expensive Maybach cars. “There are still horns going into China but Vietnam is driving the increase in poaching for horns,” said Chris R. Shepherd, deputy regional director for Southeast Asia at the wildlife advocacy group TRAFFIC.
Although data on the global rhino horn trade is scarce, poaching in Africa has soared in the past two years, with American officials saying China and Vietnam are driving the trade that has no “significant” end market in the United States. “It’s a very dire situation,” US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told Independent Newspapers. “We have very little cushion for these populations in the wild.” The rhino horn craze offers bigger payoffs than other exotic wildlife products, American officials say, adding that the crushed powder fetches up to $55,000 per kilogram in Asia – a price that can top the US street value of cocaine.