Rhinoceros across the globe are constantly being poached for their horns to sell on the market. The number of rhinos killed per year for the purpose of harvesting their horns has grown significantly each year with over 1,200 rhinos recorded as poached in South Africa last year alone. At the current rate of poaching, the risk of extinction is a looming threat for these creatures.
There might however be hope in the form of 3D printing and market saturation.
Recently a startup in San Francisco called Pembient has figured out a way to create synthetic rhino horns. Their process takes keratin (a protein that in humans makes our finger nails) and combines it with rhino DNA. This resulting compound is then turned into a dried powder which is then finally 3D printed into faux rhino horns.
From all reports these fake horns look almost spot on to the real deal and even better, by using the DNA, carry the genetic markers that would indicate a real horn.
The plan is to create these fake horns and then flood the market with them at up to 1/8th the price of actual poached horns. The hope is that with such an increase in supply at a much cheaper price will cause the poachers to go out of business, thereby saving the rhinos. There are some concerns that this may backfire and cause the demand for true rhino horns to increase but only time will tell if this is the case.
It’s pretty great to see innovation, science and economic principles being put to work to try and make the world a better place!