The consumer demand for rhino horn is primarily from Asia, with Vietnam and China being the top markets.
A 2019 article discussed the results of a study looking at the demand for rhino horn in Vietnam.
The study involved interviewing people who use rhino horn in Vietnam. The study found that people used rhino horn for a variety of reasons but mostly for medicine (most prevalently treating hangovers) and as a status symbol. Other uses included using rhino horn as a way of honouring terminally ill relatives.
The study also found that wild rhino horn was preferred over farmed rhino horn and the consumers were not affected by concerns about rhino populations. The users were also not concerned about the legal repercussions of buying rhino horn, this is due to the users believing police and law enforcement would not be interested in rhino horn use (on a personal or small scale).
The issue is that, in a lot of places across the globe, the potential profits of trading in rhino horn far outweigh the risks involved.
What does it mean for rhino horn to be a status symbol?
Essentially this means people share rhino horn within their social and professional networks as a way of demonstrating their wealth. This can be seen to strengthen relationships as it can let others know that the person with rhino horn has money and (potentially) influence. Gifting of rhino horns is also a way of getting favours from people in positions of power.