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White Rhino – 3D Printing Rhino Horns To Flood Market Will Help Stop Rhino Poaching…

There is no doubt that the Illegal wildlife trade is a large business with the side-effect of killing off thousands of endangered species every year. There is very few species harder hit than Rhinos. With Rhino horns fetching up to $100,000 per kilogram USD on the black market, poachers think nothing of taking this endangered animal in hopes of capturing one of these horns.

The horns are used to make very detailed carvings across Asia, and while there is a lack of evidence, many believe the horn to have curative properties in many traditional Eastern medicines.

Here is where Pembient, a Seattle-based biotech startup, come in. Pembient has created a plan to help solve the Rhino poaching problem, and all has to do with 3D printing.

Their idea is to 3D print using the same material that fingernails and hair are made out of, keratin, to bio-fabricate exact replicas of the rhino horns as Pembient’s CEO and co-founder Mathew Markus talked to Business Insider.

Markus Pembient and George Bonaci, who is now the VP of product, started Pembient in 2015.

Their idea is to 3D print using the same material that fingernails and hair are made out of, keratin, to bio-fabricate exact replicas of the rhino horns as Pembient’s CEO and co-founder Mathew Markus talked to Business Insider.

Markus Pembient and George Bonaci, who is now the VP of product, started Pembient in 2015.

3D Printed Rhino Horns To Stop Rhino Poaching
White Rhino on its back – 3D Printing Rhino Horns To Flood Market Will Help Stop Rhino Poaching…

As Rhino poaching is on the decline in South Africa, the problem is still very dire as almost 1400 Rhinos were killed in South Africa alone in 2015. That is a huge climb, up from just 13 in 2007 according to IUCN.
The problem stems from the art and antique market mainly in China. According to the journal Biological Conversation, most buyers purchase highly valued rhino horn carvings to keep as collectibles or to use as investments, according to the lead author of the study Yufang Gao.
Pembient’s goal plans to flood this market with these 3D printed horns. Making them genetically identical to the real ones down to the molecular level.
Once the 3D print process is perfected, the look and feel of the rhino horns will be so life-like making them almost impossible to distinguish them from the natural ones.

As the market floods, these fabricated horns will be sold as raw material to the master carvers in Asia to be used to produce valuable goods such as jewelry. These will sell for high prices on the black market.

Pembient’s strategy is an 180 from traditional approaches to curbing poaching. According to Markus the traditional demand reduction plan touted by conservationists is not working and also not ethical.

“These practices are based on thousands of years of cultural tradition – they’re a lot older than Thanksgiving,” Markus added. “We just can’t tell them to stop.”
The ultimate goal is to flood the market with cheap 3d printed bio-fabricated horns. This will eventually flood the market so much that it will drive the price down. People will not know if they are buying the real thing or a fake one.

As the price of Rhino horns gets cheaper, any incentives for rhino poaching should go down although many conservationists disagree.

According to the International Rhino Foundation and Save The Rhino International, most of the rhino horns on the black market are already fake. More than 90% of rhino horns currently in circulation are already fake, and poaching is going up, not down. Also, developing and marketing fake horns takes attention away from the real problem, stopping Rhino poaching. “While we both have the same goals,” Markus said. “There has been a lot of friction.”

Pembient is already looking to the future, according to Markus, the company would like to branch out into producing pangolin scales, elephant ivory, and other materials that are harvested from endangered species.

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