Generating Insights to Reduce Demand for Rhino Horn in Vietnam
Applying Choice Experiments and the Theory of Planned Behavior to Assess Determinants of Demand

IFRO project coordinator

Martin Reinhardt Nielsen


Illegal trade in wildlife products poses a significant threat to biodiversity conservation. The wildlife trade is also known to finance violence, contribute to destabilising national security, and hampers economic development in source countries. The trade in rhino horn is considered one of the most organized crimes, fueled by growing demand in Asia. This demand has contributed to pushing remaining wild rhino populations to the brink of extinction.

Meanwhile the question of whether a total ban or a tightly regulated trade is the most effective means of regulation is heatedly debated. However, no study has explicitly examined consumers’ preferences and trade-offs for these two options. Moreover, despite the urgency of understanding the drivers of demand the relative importance of the attributes of consumer’s choice to purchase rhino horn remains unclear.

This project aims to examine these questions based on an existing sample of rhino horn consumers in Vietnam. A literature review and interviews with key informants using the Consumer Culture Theory as a framework will be applied to explore the aspects of Asian culture and consumerism that drive rhino horn consumption. The project will also apply the Theory of Planned Behavior to obtain a detailed understanding of the socio-psychological processes and motivational drivers of rhino horn consumption. Finally, a choice experiment design will be developed to evaluate what interventions most effectively will reduce demand for rhino horn and to assess under which conditions people will comply with a ban on non-licensed rhino horn trade if a legal trade was established.

This study will provide crucial information for designing behavioural modification campaigns for the conservation of rhinos and constitute an important academic contribution to the understanding of Asian culture and consumerism in relation to wildlife products. The methodology and insights developed in this study will furthermore be applicable to investigating preferences and consumer behaviour towards other illicit products.


Dang Vu Hoai Nam is a PhD fellow from the University of Copenhagen’s TALENT Doctoral Fellowship Programme. His research focuses on consumer behaviour, Asian consumerism, and social marketing. Nam has participated in two studies of rhino horn consumers in Vietnam, identifying the reasons for rhino horn usage and shedding light on a shift from functional to symbolic reasons and from utilitarian to hedonic values. He aims to contribute to a better understanding of Asian consumerism, policy making, and the informed design of behaviour modification strategies.

Martin Reinhardt Nielsen, the project supervisor, is an Associate Professor at the Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. He works with the human dimensions of wildlife and conservation management, wildlife trade, choice experiments and wildlife policy analysis. His research interest also covers hunting, ranging from bushmeat hunting in developing countries to Inuit communities traditional hunting in the Arctic. He has throughout the past 12 years published a large number of studies on illegal trade in wildlife products.

Jette Bredahl Jacobsen is a Professor in environmental and resource economics at the Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen. Her research focuses on the economics and management of ecosystem services. Among other things, she is doing environmental valuation – of both marketed and non-marketed goods and services. She has more than 18 years of experience within this field. Professor Jacobsen is a renowned expert in Choice Experiment within environmental economics and has, together with Martin Reinhardt Nielsen and others, used and developed the method for addressing drivers and motivations of illegal behavior. She will co-supervise this project. 

Time frame

March 2019 – February 2022


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801199