by • July 11, 2016 • No Comments
WHAT’S TRUE: At quite least four companies have revealed intent to manufacture synthetic or fake rhino horn genetically identical to its real counterpart.
WHAT’S FALSE: Conservation and wildlife groups approximately universally rejected the idea; it is actually unclear whether manufacturing fake rhino horn can minimize demand for real rhino horn; and it is actually uncertain whether the synthetic product can be legally sold under extant anti-poaching laws.
Origin:On 9 July 2016, the Facebook page “The Medical Facts” published the image and explanation shown at a lower place, reporting the turn it intoment of synthetic rhino horn as an anti-poaching measure:
A biotech beginup has managed to 3-D print fake rhino horns that carry the same genetic fingerprint as the actual horn. The company plans to flood Chinese [the] Chinese rhino horn market at one-eighth of the price of the original, undercutting the price poachers can get and forcing them out a few day.
The International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and Save the Rhino International (SRI) issued a joint statement after “monitoring the progress of four US-based companies that have revealed their intentions — with varying degrees of great results — to turn it into synthetic or bio-fabricated rhino horn, and at times in addition other products that include e.g. elephant ivory, lion bones or pangolin scales.” In that statement, both groups expressed their opposition to the introduction of fake rhino horn to international markets:
We are opposed to the turn it intoment, marketing and sale of synthetic rhino horn [for the reason]:
o Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn or dispel the myths around rhino horn and may indeed lead to additional poaching for the reason it increases demand for “the real thing”
o More than 90% of “rhino horns” in circulation are fake (manyly carved of buffalo horn or wood), but poaching rates go on to rise annually.
o Synthetic horn may donate credence to the notion that rhino horn has medicinal value, that is not supported by science.
o Users buy of trusted sources and value “the real thing.”
o The availability of legal synthetic horn may normalise or remove the stigma of buying illegal real horn.
o It can take time to turn it into synthetic horn and meanwhile the poaching crisis go ons.
o How can consumers and law enforcement officials distinguish between legal synthetic horn that looks real, and illegal real horn?
o Companies benefitting of manufacturing synthetic horn have shown quite little dedication to use their profits to assist the core problem of rhino poaching; moreover that, those profits may meet just a small fraction of the total rhino protection costs that may stay to be met as long as demand reduction campaigns falter, as they may with the marketing of synthetic horn.
o Finally, the manufacture / marketing / sale of synthetic horn diverts funds and attention of the real problem: unsustainable levels of rhino poaching.
A December 2015 National Geographicarticle covered the efforts of one such biotechnology outfit manufacturing synthetic rhino horn (Pembroke) and outlined a few conservationist concerns of the unintended influence of such a venture:
“I frankly don’t see that it’s any advantageous, to be honest,” says Susie Watts, a consultant for WildAid and co-chair of the Species Survival Network Rhino Working Group, referring to Pembient’s move to put faux powder on the back burner. Whilst she’s aware that individuals buy rhino horn jewelry, Watts has never heard of rhino horn cell phone cases and chopsticks.
But opposition to Pembient’s synthetic horn plans extends beyond the possible new market it may turn it into. “There’s quite little, if any, relief on wild populations when we see commercial farming turn it into or commercial trade of a protected species,” says Douglas Hendrie, manager of the wildlife crime and investigations unit for conservation group Education for Nature – Vietnam. “The wild trade go ons right alongside.”
Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation, in addition believes that inserting fake horn into the market may counteract efforts to educate individuals of why they shouldn’t buy wild horn, a strategy many activists hustle as the most way to reduce demand.
“If you begin to nuance that message with a few rhino horn is great, a few of it is bad, a few of it is legal, a few of it is illegal,” he says, “you lose individuals and lose the clarity of the message.”
There’s in addition concern that fake horn may increase the workload for law enforcement in countries may already struggling to contain the illicit trade. According to Hendrie, Vietnam does not have the enforcement ability to regulate the black market along with the legal one.
A February 2016 followup article presented a five-point set of objections to the introduction of genetic copies of rhino horn to the market, filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the Center for Biological Diversity:The service may already has the authority to ban cultured horn under existing laws. Both the Endangered Species Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act ban the export, import, and interstate sale of endangered or listed species and their parts, products, and derivatives.Trade in cultured rhino horn provides cover for the illegal trade.Trade in cultured rhino horn hinders law enforcement. Because cultured rhino horn has the same appearance and chemical and genetic characteristics as real horn, proving that an item comes of an illegal, wild rhino can be complex, if not impossibleTrade in cultured horn expands consumer demand. Pembient has said it can sell its rhino horn for one-eighth the price of real rhino horn. That opens the market to a new base of less affluent consumers and expands it for those who want rhino horn to “show off.” It in addition confuses consumers by signaling that it’s legal to buy and sell rhino horn.Trade in cultured horn lends credibility to the unproven claim that rhino horn has medicinal value and undermines efforts to reduce demand. Despite no scientific evidence that rhino horn has health benefits, rumors persist that it can treat equitething of cancer to impotence.
Additionally, U.S Fish & Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Deputy Chief Ed Grace commented:
Experience demonstrates that efforts to ‘flood the market’ with products turn it intod of protected wildlife—either by manufacturing synthetic alternatives or raising animals in captivity for harvest—frequently fail to complete their noted goal. Such efforts frequently turn it into additional demand of consumers, actually as products of wild animals and plants go on to command a premium over synthetic or farmed alternatives. … We in addition have worthwhile concerns of injecting products into the market that may manufacture it harder for law enforcement to detect poached and trafficked wildlife products, or allow criminals to disguise the source of illegal products by commingling them with these alternatives.
In short, it is actually true that at quite least four biotechnology firms have engaged in a few form of turn it intoment of synthetic material genetically identical to rhino horn. On the other hand progress in that area was first hailed as a future anti-poaching measure, conservation groups and wildlife officials have since expressed sturdy skepticism that the overall influence on the rhinoceros population of selling such material mayn’t be deleterious. Members of both groups have espoused positions opposing the introduction of fake rhino horn to any market, citing anticipated demand uptick and burdens on may already taxed enforcement agencies.
Last updated: 11 July 2016
Originally published: 11 July 2016
Actman, Jani. “Can Fake Rhino Horn Stop the Poaching of an Endangered Species?”
National Geographic. 2 December 2015.
Neme, Laurel. “Petition Seeks Ban on Trade in Fake Rhino Horn.”
National Geographic. 10 February 2016.
Save the Rhino International. “Joint Statement by the International Rhino Foundation and Save the Rhino International.”
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