Supply & demand


South Africa is home to over 73% of the remaining Rhino population and is also the largest source of illegally traded Rhino horn.The recent spike in poaching incidents was a result of growing demand and rising prices in Vietnam and China. The horn trade currently generates $17 billion US and is worth more than its weight in gold.


Paucity of Rhinos and corresponding infrequent accessibility drives prices even higher, causing an even greater temptation to poachers.



who are the consumers

The vast majority of buyers and consumers are South-East Asian. The horn is often seen as a symbol of wealth, status and achievement; giving the consumer a feeling of 'peace of mind'. Traditional medicinal beliefs are also a factor in the region's demand for horn. Users are well-educated, wealthy, affluential, middle-aged businessmen, celebrities or government officials. They view animals as renewable commodities rather than attaching feelings and recognizing them as living and emotional beings. Rhino horns are often bought as gifts for family members, business associates, or people of authority. This demand drives the crime globally to conservancies, stockpile storage, museums, auctions, ports, airports and highway checkpoints. The majority of horns have caught in transit were on their way into Asia as the final destination.

Results from consumer research, commissioned by TRAFFIC, showed the following statistics.

  • 41% were buyers, purchased either for consumption or family
  • 39% were consumers only, have never bought a horn but received from family, friends or colleagues as a gift
  • 16% purchased as a gift for a colleague, friend, or government official
    • Only 35% would never buy
    • 16% intend to buy in future
Brent Stirton

Brent Stirton

who are the poachers

Hired by international crime gangs, there are a variety of poaching types. 

  1. External
  2. Former Military-Personnel
  3. Wildlife Industry Members
  4. Pseudo-Hunters

Generally, they are poverty-stricken and have been recruited by a middleman. Average monthly wages can be as low as $100 or less, killing a rhino for its horn may seem like a minor offense for some financial stability. Young men with families are often targeted and offered $4,000 - $5,000 per horn. A chance to alter the future of their lives for what seems like a simple task.

Typical weaponry used in this process include;

  • AK47 Assault Rifles
  • Heavy Calibre Weapons
  • Cross-Bows
  • Darting Guns
  • Axes & Chainsaws for Horn Removal

Depending whether & where they are caught, they can expect between 10 years and life imprisonment for killing and 3-4 years for each count of trespassing and/or illegal possession of firearms. 

methods of smuggling

Once the horn has been removed from the animal, it gets passed onto a national courier who transports directly to the middleman. There is belief that Rhino horn is 'poached to order' as the process is a cash on demand operation. Couriers wait to move horns and poachers will insist payment on delivery. The product is stored within shipping containers, luggage, furniture, trains, cars, on the body, and more. The horn can sometimes be ground up and transported in an attempt to hide the substance.


seized horns by source country (weight in kg)

Data: World WISE 2006-2015

seized horns by destination country (weight in kg)

Data: World WISE 2006-2015

reducing demand

There is no silver bullet for this issue. Collectively, strategic action must be taken in the attempt to lower poaching numbers. In Asia, enhanced law enforcement, demand reduction campaigns, and education for younger generations have begun. Teaching the youth about animals and creating a bond with nature will eventually decrease mortalities overtime, though it is a game of patience and persistence.