A new paper in Biological Conservation examines the drivers of the demand for rhino horn in China.
Yufang Gao and his co-authors highlight how the primary demand is for rhino horn ‘products’ (ornamental items and jewellery) over and above old-style traditional medicinal cures, and how these products have become investment ‘assets’ in China.
As Richard Coniff observes in Strange Behaviours, the paper outlines how the Western media perception of the rhino horn trade as driven primarily for (non-existent) medicinal purposes is outdated.
Evidence from Wildlife Justice Commission investigations corroborate these findings.
For example, in our investigations in Viet Nam, in addition to encountering large quantities of whole rhino horns, the vast majority of rhino horn products we saw offered for sale by traders in Nhi Khe, and associated locations, were carved products. Namely decorative items such as tea cups and bowls, and jewellery. All of which are targeted predominantly towards Chinese buyers.
The price of such carved rhino horn products is determined by the colour (the darker the colour, the higher the price) and by the type of horn: front horns being considered more costly than the second horn. For example, one of the key traffickers based in Nhi Khe who specializes in processed rhino horn products quoted a price of 71 USD per gram for a black coloured tea cup, versus 61 USD per gram for a lighter coloured cup. Typically, it is only the off-cuts from the carving process that are then sold for the production of powder used in health tonics, as hangover cure, etc.
‘Rhino Horn trade in China: An analysis of the art and antiques market’ by Yufang Gao, Kelly J Stoner, Andy T L Lee, Susan G Clark in Biological Conservation.
‘The war on rhinos? It’s an investment bubble’ by Richard Coniff, Strange Behaviours.