Rhinos are being hunted into the extinction by poachers eager to cash in on the illegal rhino horn trade.
Now, a biotech company hopes to use 3D printing to stop poachers in their tracks.
Pembient, a California based company, has figured out how to use keratin and rhino DNA to bioprint rhino horns that look like the real thing.
The plan is to flood the Chinese market with the synthetic horns, driving the prices down and knock poachers out of business.
“We can produce a rhinoceros horn product that is actually more pure than what you can get from a wild animal,” Matthew Markus, CEO of Pembient said. “Demand reduction is important.”
Some conservation groups are worried, however, that the plan will backfire and actually drive up the price of the real deal, putting more rhinos at risk.
Susie Ellis, executive director of International Rhino Foundation also in a statement to Quartz that it is unclear how law enforcement agencies will be able to tell the real from the 3D printed synthetics – both which will have the same DNA fingerprint – making it hard to prosecute those profiting from poached horns.
“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,” she said, wary that the new synthetic horns will end the slaughter of the endangered animals.
Photo Credit: Save the Rhino