Scientists Create Fake Rhino Horn To Disrupt Poacher’s Market

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By John Vibes / Truth Theory

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford and Fudan University in China recently announced that they have developed a fake rhino horn, which they hope will diminish the illegal market for the real thing. The scientists have made the replica out of horsehair, and say that it is indistinguishable from an actual rhino horn.

Prof Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, one of the researchers involved with the project, says that the horns are cheap to make as well.

“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,” Vollrath told BBC, adding that these fake horns could “confuse the trade, depress prices and thus support rhino conservation”.

However, not everyone is so optimistic. A spokesperson for Save the Rhino International issued a warning that introducing this type of product into the market place could have unintended consequences, and perhaps even stimulate demand for real rhino horns. The group believes that efforts would be better spent on measures to prevent poaching or reduce demand.

John Taylor, deputy director of Save the Rhino International, doubts that the new artificial horns are actually convincing enough to fool the most discerning buyers, especially when one of the most popular uses for horns are traditional Chinese medicines.

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“There is no substitute for anti-poaching measures at one end and reducing demand at the other,” Taylor said.

Still, the team of scientists said that they plan to flood the market with these horns as they are completed, so the typical customers of poachers will be unable to tell which horns are real and which ones are fake. They also believe that with so many horns on the market, the price will be driven down and poachers will have less of an incentive to kill rhinos.

IMAGE CREDIT: Etienne Outram

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