Why does China want rhino horns?

Answered by Phillip Nicastro

China’s demand for rhino horns stems from its long-standing use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Within TCM, rhino horn is believed to possess powerful healing properties and is highly valued for its ability to cool the body and reduce fevers. This perception of its medicinal benefits has led to a high demand for rhino horns in China.

In TCM, certain illnesses are believed to be caused by excessive heat or “yang” energy in the body. Rhino horn, with its cool properties, is seen as an effective remedy to counterbalance this excess heat and restore balance to the body. It is often prescribed by TCM practitioners for ailments such as high fever, convulsions, and even life-threatening conditions.

The belief in the healing properties of rhino horn is deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and has been passed down through generations. Despite the lack of scientific evidence to support its efficacy, many people in China continue to believe in its medicinal value and seek it out as a treatment option.

Furthermore, the rarity and exclusivity of rhino horn contribute to its high demand in China. Rhino populations have been decimated by poaching, making their horns a scarce commodity. The limited supply and the illicit nature of the trade have driven up the price of rhino horns, making them a symbol of wealth and status.

In addition to its medicinal and status-related value, there is also a cultural aspect to the demand for rhino horns in China. Traditional art and craftsmanship often incorporate rhino horn, further fueling the demand for this material. Despite efforts to discourage the use of rhino horn in art and promote alternative materials, the cultural significance attached to it remains strong.

It is important to note that the Chinese government has taken steps to address the illegal trade in rhino horns. In recent years, there have been crackdowns on the black market and increased efforts to raise awareness about the conservation issues surrounding rhinos. However, the demand for rhino horns persists, driven by deeply ingrained cultural beliefs and the allure of its perceived medicinal properties.

As an expert, I have witnessed the ongoing debate surrounding the use of rhino horn in TCM. While some argue for its cultural and historical significance, others advocate for the conservation of rhino populations and the promotion of alternative treatments. The complex nature of this issue requires a multi-faceted approach involving education, regulation, and the development of sustainable alternatives within TCM.

China’s desire for rhino horns is driven by a combination of cultural beliefs, perceived medicinal properties, and the rarity and exclusivity of the material. Addressing this demand requires a comprehensive understanding of the cultural and historical context, as well as a commitment to conservation and sustainable practices.