VietNamNet Bridge – One of Viet Nam's leading conservationists has blamed the study "Rhino horn consumers, who are they?" released by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in late September for subsequent misunderstandings over Vietnamese wildlife intentions.
At a Ha Noi meeting held last Friday, Do Quang Tung, Director of the Viet Nam Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority, said the report contained inexact information causing serious misconceptions about Vietnamese agencies' efforts to reduce rhino horn consumption and worsening Viet Nam's global image.
After the report's release, international newspapers featured dozens of articles reporting that 16 per cent of Vietnamese wanted to buy or consume rhino horn if they could, sparking a wave of international anger against Viet Nam.
Tung added that the study only surveyed 720 individuals in Ha Noi and HCM City, but concluded that "demand for rhino as a luxury purchase by upper-middle class citizens in Viet Nam, including professional businessmen, celebrities and Government officials, has been identified as the strongest driver of the current rhino poaching crisis."
The study also said "the use of rhino horn was a status symbol among wealthy urban Vietnamese".
Under the study, 16 per cent of respondents were "intenders", individuals who said they wanted to buy or consume rhino horn in the future. It was believed that, with the increase of wealth in Viet Nam's upper-middle class, this group would soon become rhino horn consumers. Even though only 5 per cent of those surveyed admitted buying or consuming rhino horn, the study claimed this percentage was expected to keep growing as "intenders" acquired the economic power to become consumers.
The study added: "Others feel that even if the species were to be lost forever, they personally will not be affected and so do not care."
Tung said the study intentionally selected 109 people who bought and used rhino horn - accounting for nearly 20 per cent of the total participants - and then randomly chose 611 other people to be interviewed.
Tung said the questionnaire - totalling 30 pages - was designed by TRAFFIC and WWF, before being conducted by market research specialist Ipsos Marketing, without any participation from Vietnamese management authorities.
"Therefore, the research does not represent the true trend of Vietnamese people's consumption of rhino horn, as well as not providing the exact percentage of people consuming rhino horn in Viet Nam in relation to the total population," Tung said.
Speaking at the meeting, Naomi Doak, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC's Southeast Asia Greater Mekong Programme, admitted several international articles had exaggerated the study.
TRAFFIC had asked for those articles to be corrected to dispel misunderstandings about Vietnamese management authorities' efforts in co-operating with TRAFFIC to tackle rhino horn consumption in Viet Nam, she said.