Image credit Brett Blignout
The Rhino is an animal that is fast becoming extinct. Poaching of these animals is rife and now scientists have come up with a fantastic way to combat this huge problem.
Rhinos were once abundant throughout Asia and Africa, but their numbers have dwindled at an increasingly alarming rate over the last few decades, dropping from an estimated 500,000 at the start of the 20th century, down to 70,000 by the 1970’s, to only around 29,000 today.
The rhino horn business is one of great fortune. Used to treat fevers and beautify the skin, prices for these precious horns have soared to a whopping $65,000 per kilogram ($30,000 /pound)! Run like a high end drug ring, the market in which they thrive is run by organised crime cartels, with the poachers themselves often being disparately poor individuals. But how do we combat this? This idea that scientists have come up with, may just be the answer.
Image credit Heinrich Van Den Berg/Getty
Recently we have seen innovative ideas on how to keep poachers at bay, including a clever idea that The Dinokeng Game Reserve in Gauteng came up with to poison the horn, rendering it inedible, by creating a potent mix of parasiticides and pink dye and painting it on the horn, a technique that has been proving effective. But the next step scientists have taken, creates problems for the ring by hitting them where it hurts, aiming to put them out of business for good.
The Biotech firm Pembient plan to flood the market with genetically correct, synthetic rhino horns at 1/8th of the price of the genuine thing, forcing poachers out of business for good. The horns themselves will be absolutely indistinguishable from the real thing and are made up of a clever mix of keratin and rhino DNA and will be 3D printed by the thousands.
Image credit Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty
CEO of Pembient Matthew Markus stated "In the drug trade, usually a cutting agent is something that's cheaper and inferior to the product being cut. But if we can offer something as good as the product being cut but vastly cheaper, then anyone in the trade will naturally gravitate to using our product."
He claims that their horns will even be superior as they will not have been affected by pollution and Pembient are not stopping there. They will next be moving their attentions to the ivory trade, making this an exciting step towards hopefully combating poaching on a much wider scale, to include not only the rhino.
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