The Élan of Extinction: Elite Seek Status Symbols to Die For

According to recent surveys, the primary consumers of rare animal parts may not be who we thought they were. Surveys conducted across 15 Asian urban areas by a consortium of wildlife and conservation NGOs and media companies indicate that the heavy trade in wildlife parts in those areas today is being fueled not so much by an older generation seeking traditional medicinal ingredients or raw material for religious icons, but rather by a younger, wealthier set concerned mostly with prestige. In China, according to the surveys, the most typical purchasers of elephant ivory and rhino horn are wealthy urban males, age 25–45. In both China and Vietnam, there is a growing trend among members of this demographic to purchase costly wildlife parts and derivative substances for their investment value and as advertisements of the possessor’s wealth (and apparent lack of moral compass).

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