In order to address the demand side, a good understanding of the consumer of rhino horn in Vietnam is required, including their primary motivations for obtaining and consuming rhino horn.
Vietnam has a population of about 92 million people, with approximately 80% of the populace under the age of 40 and 72% of this majority under the age of 24. The median age is 27.8 years (2011 data). Given the young age of the population very little of the demand is driven by ancient culture or traditional medicine. The primary driver is the aspirational demands of a rapidly increasing class of young and affluent people who use rhino horn as a status symbol. This means that these groups will be susceptible to the types of brand building and shaping campaigns perfected by Western advertising agencies over the last 50 years.
By far the primary user is significantly wealthy men. So why do Vietnamese (and other Asian) businessmen use rhino horn?
- Symbolic value – Group values rarity and expense rather than perceived restorative or medical properties, therefore demand will continue to grow with economic growth
- Acquiring rare produce associated with money, power and skill
- Rhino horn gift used to demonstrate respect and competence when negotiating deals and initiating new business relationships
- Gifts used to influences and obtain preferential treatment from those in positions of power, or gain advantage so recipient must reciprocate accordingly
Stemming consumption means undermining the role of rhino horn as a medium for communicating prestige.