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05/22/2013

Why rhino horn is a better gift than gold in Vietnam

Rhino4

A file photo of a white rhinoceros. As few as 18,000 of the threatened species remain as reports indicate rhino poaching in Africa and Asia is skyrocketing. (Getty Images)

Why gift someone gold when there is rhino horn? After all, it’s a status symbol and costs more than gold.

That seems to be the new trend in Vietnam, a country infamous for being the main destination for rhino horn.

In his latest documentary, Bad Medicine — Illegal Trade in Rhinoceros Horns, conservationist and filmmaker Karl Amman traces the routes of illegal traffickers from Africa to the streets of Vietnam, where “rhino horns have also become a status symbol,” he told Al Jazeera.

Though the weight of rhino horns varies, an individual horn can fetch up to $350,000 and a kilogram of the horn sells for as much as $65,000.

The cost of poaching in Africa, though, is incalculable.

In South Africa, poachers kill two rhinos every day on average. A record 668 South African rhinos were killed by poachers last year, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

So, why rhino horn?

Along with the myths surrounding the healing properties of the horn, Vietnam has also recently been rife with the rumour that the horn can cure cancer.

(Reports say the rumour is being perpetuated by rhino horn dealers and traders.)

Incredible as it sounds, this rumour has allegedly been compounded at some hospitals in that country where staff have supposedly offering rhino horn to terminally ill patients.

The horn is mixed with water after being ground into a powder and consumed as a liquid.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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