Bio-engineered rhino horns have few takers across world

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 15, 2015 01:31 IST
A white rhino and its baby cross a road in Kenya’s Rift Valley. (Reuters Photo)

A coalition of wildlife non-government organisations from across the world has opposed the use of bio-engineered rhino horn as a measure to curb poaching of the endangered species.

An American biotech start-up, Pembient, established in January 2015, has set an aim of replacing the illegal wildlife trade worth $20 billion with sustainable commerce.

“We are leveraging advances in biotechnology to fabricate wildlife products, such as rhino horn and elephant ivory, at prices below the levels that induce poaching. Our goal is to replace the illegal wildlife trade with sustainable commerce,” the company said on its website.

However, the idea has not found takers among wildlife campaigners across the world who believe that it will worsen rhino and elephant poaching by removing the “stigma” of horn consumption and creating obstacles for law enforcement.

“Pembient is trying to capitalise on the blood of rhinos for money and their reckless behaviour is as threatening as the poaching they claim to be addressing,” said a joint statement issued by 10 international NGOs including Wildlife Protection Society of India.

There is a huge demand for rhino horns in parts of China and Vietnam where the powdered horn is considered a cure for everything — from hangover to cancer.

But the source of the horn is in South Africa and India. In South Africa, the toll of the big animal has risen from 13 in 2007 to staggering 1,215 in 2015. India, which has highest population of single horn rhinos in Asia, has seen killing of 141 rhinos between 2009 and 2014 and another 13 in 2015.

Wildlife activists say Pembient’s plans will encourage rhino killing as it will become very difficult for enforcers to distinguish between real and bio-engineered horns.

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