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Why Vietnam and Mozambique are the 'worst offenders' when it comes to the traffic of rhino horns

Punish those who traffic in rhino horns, punish them hard.

That was the stern message Vietnam was told on Tuesday by representatives attending the 178-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok.

Vietnam and Mozambique were called the “worst offenders.”

Vietnam, the main destination for rhino horn, was also asked to implement a strategy to reduce demand in the country.

It’s yet another step in an effort to stop the poaching of rhinos which has increased at a terrifying rate in the past few years. Poachers in South Africa are killing two rhinos every day on average. A record 668 South African rhinos were killed by poachers last year, and close to 150 have died so far in 2013, according to the WWF.

But why are rhino horns so in demand in Vietnam?  

In addition to the myths surrounding the healing properties of rhino horns, Vietnam has also recently been rife with the rumour that the horn is a cure for 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 offered rhino horn to terminally ill patients.

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

A kilogram of rhino horn sells for as much as $65,000.

Demand for rhino horn is so great in the Southeast Asian country that certain outlets are said to be selling imitation rhino horn made from cows or buffalo.

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


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I will inform the Vietnamese consulate know that I will not travel to their country until something concrete is implemented to stop the smuggling of rhino horn into the country. Vietnam is becoming a popular destination for tourist. I will not spend my money there.

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