Naked Scientist: 3D printing rhino horns is a good idea but might not work

A variety of efforts have been proposed to save rhinos from poachers, from farming to dehorning them.

The most recent proposal from an American biotech company Pembient, to 3D-print synthetic rhino horns to flood the market and lessen demand for the real thing has drawn some skepticism.

READ: Environmentalists argue for rhino farming, defend local rhino baron

The Naked Scientist explains why it won't work.

What is rhino horn? It's the equivalent of your finger nails, its keratin - which is the same stuff your hair is made from in a very condensed form.. and it forms this hard tough thing that the animal uses to defend itself and make scrapes in the soil. Certain people like to use those things for various other things.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

It would be very hard to 3D print that in the same way that the Rhino makes it, and make something authentic looking.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

I think the other strategies of making them a funny color or removing them so that they are not there as an attraction to the poachers is better.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

But most effective of all, says Smith, is educating people as to why it is more valuable to keep rhino alive, as they play a large role in eco-tourism.

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