Scientists have invented a technique for constructing a fake rhino horn they hope will put a dent in the illegal horn market threatening the survival of the species.
They’ve found a way to compress and fashion the horsehair in a way that feels similar to the real thing – even when the “horn” is cut.
The project hopes to make an artificial horn that’s so realistic it would trick poachers. Their goal is to “flood the market” with fakes that would, in turn, decrease the value of actual horns, according to the outlet.
Scientists say if the fakes can be produced cheaply, it would cut prices of the actual horns and reduce the monetary incentive for poaching the rhinos.
“It appears from our investigation that it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired horn-like material that mimics the rhino’s extravagantly expensive tuft of nose hair,” Prof Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology told the BBC.
The Oxford team believes the fakes would help to “confuse the trade,” although some worry it could unintentionally increase the rhino horn market.
John Taylor, deputy director of Save the Rhino International, told the outlet the fake rhino horns entering the market would actually expand it and create even more demand for the horns, which he says could deplete their population even faster.
He believes the most important way to help the rhinos is to concentrate on anti-poaching methods and other ways to reduce the demand for consumers.
“There is no substitute for anti-poaching measures at one end and reducing demand at the other,” he told the BBC.
Rhino horns are so valuable because they are believed to be an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s a major reason why anti-poaching methods have struggled to fight against the constant demand in Asia, according to the outlet.
The horn of a white rhino sells for roughly $3,000 a pound, but the value can end up being five to ten times that amount on Asian black markets, according to National Geographic.
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