Despite stronger anti-poaching teams and bans on the trade of rhino horn, this illegal business still continues to this day. In search of a new way to protect endangered rhinos from poaching, scientists have found a way to make a fake rhino horn that looks and feels just like the real one using horsehair. With this, the scientists believe they could disrupt the trade of rhino horn by flooding the market with a cheap, fake alternative.
The idea is that the flood of fakes will cause the price of rhino horns to drop—and since the “penalty of having rhino horn is still very high, then the value proposition changes for the trader”. In other words, fake rhino horns could make the market less lucrative for poachers.
It’s a clever solution, but not everybody is convinced. Dr. Richard Thomas from the wildlife organization, Traffic, says pushing a synthetic alternative “could help to reinforce the perception that rhino horn is a desirable commodity, thus perpetuating existing demand”.
Instead, Thomas believes we should protect rhinos by encouraging a shift in consumer behavior and enforcing measures against the trade.