A scientist has come up with an idea to solve the rhino poaching problem — synthetic rhino horns.
Matthew Markus, the CEO of Pambient has the aim of creating bio-identical synthetic rhino horns to stem off the killing of rhinos for their horns.
The plan has, however, been met with resistance in conservationists who deem it as being too risky on the grounds that it will increase the demand for rhino horns. They are pushing for a ban on synthetics on endangered animals.
Using synthetics on animals has been a common alternative to preserving some natural species. Some examples include the production of human-made Orchids. It is in this vein that researchers are hoping to create synthetic rhino horns and elephant ivory.
“Earlier this year, we produced low fidelity prototypes, they are solids but they don’t have all the properties of rhino horn and we are working now to produce these high-quality bio-identical solids,” CEO Matthew Markus told BBC News at the Cites meeting.
“The higher fidelity prototypes may take two years and that’s unless all this flak scares investors off.”
The “flak” refers to opposers of the synthetic rhino horn who fear that it could worsen the poaching problem.
“We are very concerned that these synthetic products would provide a cover for illegal trade,
“How are enforcement officers on the ground supposed to distinguish between the two?” asked Lee Henry from World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Mr. Markus, however, stated that this is in fact his plan. “The only thing that guarantees that you are getting the product you think you are getting is the product itself, if you can destroy the uniqueness of that product through bio-fabrication, I think that’s a win.”
Rhino and elephant poaching have become a cause for global concern. In 2015, the number of Rhinos poached for their horns in South Africa was 1,175 a drastic increase from just 13 in 2007.
Some member countries of the Cites have suggested that the synthetic products should also come under the regulations of the convention.
This, however, will be decided next year. For now, Mr. Markus expects his idea to be given a chance while insisting that the projected negative effects of the proposed synthetic horns are not as bad as the opposition have made it out to be.