Illegal Trade in Rhino Horn: The Vietnamese Connection


Vietnam has been identified as one of the major recipients of rhino horn from South Africa.

The demand for rhino horn in Vietnam has increased substantially over the past few years, and the country is currently considered a significant factor in the illegal rhino horn trade.

Most rhino horn entering Vietnam is sourced from South Africa. Rhino horn is obtained for consumption (quasi-) legally via trophy hunts, and illegally from rhino horn dealers operating in South Africa.

Not only is the demand for rhino horn as a curative widespread in urban areas of Vietnam, but rhino horn and special tools for grinding rhino horn are offered for sale in shops and online.

Preliminary research conducted by wildlife trade investigators suggests that political figures in Vietnam could be involved in the acquisition – and consumption – of rhino horn..

Rhino horn for sale in Vietnam

In addition to the traditional myths surrounding the healing properties of rhino horn, the Vietnamese have propagated the recent rumor that rhino horn is a cure for cancer. (Updated August 6th, 2011: Some Chinese medicine websites have been offering rhino horn mixtures for the treatment of cancer. This suggests that the “cancer rumor” is likely a planned marketing ploy. Updated January 26th, 2012: “Cancer rumor” linked to China’s Longhui Pharmaceutical Company.) This unfortunate notion has been compounded by hospital staff who have supposedly offered rhino horn to terminally ill patients.

Rhino horn is sold in Vietnam through various retail outlets, such as traditional medicine stores. It is also fairly easy to locate rhino horn for sale online in Vietnam.

The photo below is part of an advertisement for “rhino horn” on a Vietnamese website:

Some Vietnamese businesses sell special tools for preparing rhino horn, along with their regular wares.

It is disturbing to note that investigators claimed in 2009 that rhinoceros skin and blood are offered as well.

Some accounts suggest that rhino horn is sold whole or in “cuts weighing between 90g to 500g”. The horn is mixed with water after being ground into a powder and consumed as a liquid.

Imitation rhino horn

The demand for rhino horn is so great in Vietnam that certain outlets are said to be selling imitation rhino horn made from cows or buffalo.

On the Vietnamese market, some sources report that a “freshly cut” rhino horn commands a retail price of USD $25,000 – $40,000 per kg. Imitation horns supposedly fetch a substantial price of USD $15,000 per kg.

Contrary to popular belief, the manufacture and sale of “fake” rhinoceros horns does not flood the market and drive prices down. Instead, imitation horns keep the trade invigorated and the demand high. Next page >>

Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which provides news and information about wildlife crime and endangered species. I am the Editor of Rhino Horn is Not Medicine and Project Pangolin, author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine, a writer for the environmental news blog Planetsave, the host of Behind the Schemes, and Producer for the upcoming documentary The Price. When I'm not blogging about the illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy gardening, reading, designing, and rocking out to live music.

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  1. thanks for your article very informative, will circulate to other parties not on the internet.

    kevin bewick

  2. Hi Kevin –

    That would be great – thank you!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the article.


  3. I was shocked to read about a 10 man gang armed with AK47’s
    raiding a farm in Limpopo and killing two rhinos for their horns.

    May I suggest a possible way to prevent this.

    1. That Rhinos even at an early age have their horn drilled and deep down
    a transponder is inserted which could be detected at border control.
    2. Word is put out that a toxic element has been injected into the horn
    which if injested by humans can be fatal.

    Something like a farmer being upset about his watermelons being
    plundered. His solution was to erect a sign that he had placed poison
    in one of them. Following day, another sign appeared which someone
    said that there were now two poisioned watermelons.

  4. I am totally shocked at the Trophy hunting going on with Professional Hunters bringing in unqualified Vietnamese gun toting barsteds in to shoot our beloved rhino. The photo of one of them standing over that beautiful dead rhino absolutely turned my stomache and my heart bled for that magnificent life that had just been brutally massacred!!!! Just reading this report tells me that Vietnam is on a total mission to order every living rhino on the African continent, they will not give up until every one has been murdered!!!
    My God what a realization, it is absolutely appalling to think these individuals will pay anything for the end result, no matter what science says they will still continue?
    I would like to thank you for showing me this write up, it has shattered me and made me honour the Conservation of the Rhino people who forge on with their fight against these savages. May God sit up and stop this anialation!!!!!!

  5. Leave a tracking Chip in the horn.(they will not know what hit them) you’ll track them down to the meter.

  6. I want to know whether the horn shown in the post is real and if not,also the other findings suggestive of fake one.In our area there are so many myths about it.Some say it lighter than cow and buffalo horn.Other say that rhino horn has characteristic smell.