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Could This Save the Rhinos?

San Francisco biotech startup Pembient has an innovative solution to the demand for rhino horn which is driving the majestic animal to extinction. Using advanced 3D printing technology, Pembient has created fake rhino horns that are genetically indistinguishable from actual horn.

In producing these fake rhino horns, Pembient hopes to flood eastern medicine markets selling them at one-eighth the price of poached horn, driving down demand and saving the lives of the world’s remaining rhinos.

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In an interview with Digital Journal, Pembient CEO said, “We can produce a rhinoceros horn product that is actually more pure than what you can get from a wild animal. There are so many contaminants, pesticides, fallout from Fukushima. Rhino horn in the lab is as pure as that of a rhino of 2,000 years ago.”

Some conservationists like Susie Ellis, Executive director of International Rhino Foundation are unsure that Pembient’s plan will actually work. In an interview with Quartz, she stated, “Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn [and] could lead to more poaching because it increases the demand for “the real thing.” In addition, production of synthetic horn encourages its purported medicinal value, even though science does not support any medical benefits. And, importantly, questions arise as to how law enforcement authorities will be able to detect the difference between synthetic and real horn, especially if they are sold as powder or in manufactured products.”

What do you think? Is Pembient’s idea the brilliant solution to poaching we’ve all been waiting for, or a disaster waiting to happen? Let us know in the comments.

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