JOHANNESBURG — Rhino horn is so sought after in Vietnam that it is now more expensive than cocaine, according to a report.
Vietnam's newly rich buy rhinoceros horn, most of it from rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa, as a cure for cancer, fever — or even just a hangover.
On the streets of Vietnam and China, it can fetch up to $65,000 a kilogram, conservation experts told GlobalPost for an investigation into the poaching crisis in South Africa.
This is more than the US street value of cocaine, the Associated Press said in a report on rhino horn consumers in Hanoi.
Rhino horn is also more expensive than gold — never mind that experts say it has the medicinal value of finger nails.
The AP interviewed a young woman named Nguyen Huong Giang, who "loves to party but loathes hangovers, so she ends her whiskey benders by tossing back shots of rhino horn," which Giang grinds on a specially designed plate, and then mixes with water.
GlobalPost in-depth report: Last Rhino Standing: Will Africa's rhinos become extinct in our lifetime?
South Africa, which is home to 21,000 rhinos, or about 80 percent of the world's rhino population, has seen a dramatic rise in poaching since 2008. The brutal killing of rhinos is fueled by the soaring demand for their horns in China and particularly Vietnam.
South African environment minister Edna Molewa said Wednesday that 159 rhinos have been killed so far this year, an "alarming figure."
The famous Kruger National Park continues to see the worst of the poaching, with 95 rhinos killed in the park in 2012. A group of Kruger park rangers and guides were recently arrested in connection with the killing of a rhino cow and calf.
The park is preparing to deploy 75 of a planned 150 additional rangers with a specific mission to fight rhino poaching. The new rangers are currently undergoing a six-week paramilitary training course.
The AP, in its story from Vietnam, said that Giang only takes rhino horn shots once or twice every few months, and estimates her horn will last another 10-15 years.
"But once her stash is depleted, there may not be any rhinos left on earth to satisfy her craving," the AP report said.
More from GlobalPost: South Africa: 'poacher' steals fiberglass rhino horn