An awareness campaign to stop people buying rhino horn as part of efforts to save the species has cut demand by almost two-fifths in a year, conservationists have said.
Poaching of rhinos has spiralled in recent years in the face of growing demand for their horns, in particular in Vietnam, where it is used for medicine to treat conditions ranging from cancer to hangovers.
More than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in South Africa alone last year - up from just 13 in the country in 2007 - and conservationists have warned the animal is being pushed towards extinction as a result of poaching.
But a three-year campaign to tackle the problem in the key country where horn is consumed appears to have had success in its first year. Words: PA
Humane Society International (HSI) worked with the Vietnamese government on the campaign, focused in the first year on the capital Hanoi, involving schoolchildren, the Hanoi Women's Association, university students, and the business and science communities.
Children were given copies of HSI's book I'm a Little Rhino as part of their curriculum and adverts appeared on billboards and buses.
The campaign focused on messages that rhino horn was illegal, it was made of the same material - keratin - as fingernails, it was not effective in treating human diseases including cancer, and buying it was a waste of money.
Polling in Hanoi and five other cities in Vietnam revealed that the percentage of people saying they bought or used rhino horn fell 38 per cent by the end of the first year of the campaign, from 4.2 per cent in 2013 to 2.6 per cent in 2014.
In Hanoi, the results were even stronger, with the number of people using rhino horn falling from almost one in 20 (4.5 per cent) to one in 100 a year later (one per cent ) - a drop of more than three-quarters (77 per cent).
The number of people who believe rhino horn is medicine had also fallen over the year.