A northern white rhinoceros recently died leaving only four of the subspecies alive in the world. Their outlook is looking bleak.

“Rhinoceros populations in both Asia and Africa have suffered for decades due to poaching, which is spurred mainly by demand for their horns as a key ingredient in many traditional Asian medicines.”

Despite conservation efforts by the South African government poaching is still a problem. Every year more and more rhinos are being poached. “Rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, and if killings continue at this rate… rhinos could go extinct in the very near future.”

A number of ideas have been proposed to combat poaching including:
 – lacing rhino horns with poison
 – dehorning rhinos humanely
 – literally farming the animals for their horn

Many of these have been shown not to work, as after tracking a rhino, poachers would kill it anyway to avoid tracking it in the future.

I recent controversial proposition is to 3D print replica horns that are indistinguishable from a real one. Opposition includes:
 – “that increasing supply would only exacerbate the problem by opening up the market even further”
 – a “fake alternative out there could elevate the status of real horn in the minds of the wealthiest buyers”

Markus from biotech company Pembient argues that 45% of survey respondents who use rhino horn for medicinal purposes would use manufactured horn as a substitute.

“Many conservationists believe that educational campaigns and demand reduction are the only long-term solution to the poaching crisis. But [some believe that] these sorts of ‘long-term’ efforts are exactly what haven’t been working — at least, not in a timeframe that’s compatible with saving the very last rhinos from extinction.”