Poaching has been one of the major issues that we are trying to curb in Africa. With different protests and meetings held every now and then to look for a permanent solution that could stop the illegal wildlife trade. This illegal business is endangering different species every year but Rhinos have unfortunately had a hard hit. As the rhino horns are making money for people in the black market it has been a challenge to put an end to this warfare. Many poachers have been taking these horns in belief that they have some curative properties though there is no proof for that. In search for a solution a Seattle based biotech startup is trying to solve this problem with a 3D printer and some economics.
The idea is to bio-fabricate rhino horns out of keratin the same material that fingernails and hair are made out of. This project began in 2015 and is now known as Pembient, which is part of a biotech company in San Francisco. Although poaching has reduced because of the serious security measures, the problem still exists in most African countries and particularly in South Africa where 1,338 rhinos were killed just last year.
The buyers are usually from China, buying the horns as art and antiques. Pembient Company hopes to generate 3D horns genetically identical to real ones on the macroscopic and microscopic level. The whole idea is to make them so real that it will be impossible to distinguish from the real ones. The horns will then be sold to traditional carvers in Asia and used to produce high value goods. The fact remains that the demand for rhino horns won’t just stop in a day but hopefully these new 3D horns will do the trick.
So far Pembient’s plan is to trick poachers and buyers into buying their horns. Since the fake horns will almost be as good as the real ones it will definitely secure rhinos. The fact that the fake horns will also be very cheap and easier to import the incentive for poachers slaughtering rhinos will decline.