Recently, the Humane Society International (HSI) and the Vietnam CITES Management Authority (MA) announced that in the last year there has been a 77 percent decrease in the number of people who buy or use rhino horn in Hanoi. If accurate, this finding is an incredibly promising sign of success. Nevertheless, the announcement was met with skepticism by many conservationists, demanding greater scrutiny of the findings. With that in mind, here are some key questions we should be asking.

Are statistically robust monitoring frameworks of consumer attitudes and behaviors in place?

To understand changes in consumer behavior and the intention of individuals to purchase or consume rhino horn in the future (distinct from their simply being aware of the legal and conservation issues involved) requires rigorously collected social and market data.

To date, there have only been four consumer studies focused on rhino horn in Vietnam (2012–2013), each designed with different objectives and data collection methods. These surveys can be broadly characterized as having a restricted sample size, varying in how representative they are. Importantly, they all had different objectives and therefore adopted different methods and asked different questions.

While individually valuable, these surveys are insufficiently consistent to be useful in measuring trends in consumer behavior.

Read the full blog by Scott Roberton on National Geographic >>