3D-Printed Rhino Horns May Save The Rhinos

At the turn of the 20th century, there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. Today, there are roughly 29,000. Much of this is due to the important role rhino horn plays in many Asian cultures, from elaborate carvings to traditional, but unproven, Eastern medicines. Rhino horn can fetch up to $60,000 per pound on the black market, which exceeds the price of gold, cocaine, and heroin. So far, the effort to curb demand has been unsuccessful. According to Matthew Markus, CEO of biotech startup Pembient, "it's not really ethical, either." In an interview with Business Insider, he said, "These practices are based on thousands of years of cultural tradition—they're a lot older than Thanksgiving. We can't just tell them to stop."

So Pembient is taking a drastically different approach: instead of reducing the supply of rhino horn, they plan to increase it by flooding the market with 3D-printed versions. The horns are printed from keratin, the same material real horns are made of, and include real rhino DNA. This means that they'll be indistinguishable from the real thing, even if they're tested in a lab. Because it's cheaper to produce a fake horn than poach a real one, they can be sold to traditional artisans and supplement manufacturers at a lower price. The hope is that this would eventually drive down the price across the board, thereby reducing the incentive to kill the endangered animals. Explore the rhino population crisis with the videos below.

Rhino Horns Aren't Magic

Some claim that rhino horn has medicinal properties. Science says otherwise.

Could 3D Printed Horns Save The Rhino?

Hear about how a biotech startup plans to drive down demand for the endangered animals' horns.

Written by Curiosity Staff September 30, 2016

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