Rhinos were once abundantly found in the regions of Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century. But over the last few decades the poaching of this beautiful animal is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer towards extinction.According to a recent survey, there were 1215 Black Rhinos poached in 2014 and by 2016-2018 the numbers would take over the number of actual births, which means the Rhinos will join the ever growing list of extinct animals.
These Black Horned Rhinos are killed for their horns which are used as an ingredient for Traditional Chinese Medicine and also flaunted as status symbols to display someone’s success and wealth.In the recent past we see a sharp rise in the killing of Rhinos because of the high demand for the Chinese medicine in Vietnam where it is used to cure ailment like snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and even “devil possession.”
All the efforts taken by the South African and other Asian countries to stop the poaching have gone in vain and that has made them look at the problem with a different perspective. Rather than finding new ways to stop poaching they want to flood the Asian markets with artificially 3D printed horns which would have same chemical properties as that of the original ones.
Rhino horn is primarily made of keratin just like hair,horses’ hooves, turtle beaks, and cockatoo bills; as per the traditional Chinese myths this keratin is considered to have magical powers and thus the demand for it keeps increasing. To bridge the gap between demands and supply an American company called Pembient has started researching on the possibilities of 3D printing these horns using the Bio printing inks. The company plans to sell these Horns in powdered form and flood to the Asian markets with it, they hope that the demand for the real horns would decrease as these artificial horn powder would be sold at a fraction of the cost of the real product. Lower demand for original horns would force the poachers to stop killing animals and we may save Rhinos from going extinct.
If Pembient is able to recreate the Rhino horns successfully their next plan would be to make substitute for elephant tusk which is used for its Ivory. We wish them all the luck with their project.