By Rachel Nuwer
In Africa, 892 rhinos were poached for their horns in 2018, down from a high of 1,349 killed in 2015. The decline in deaths is encouraging, but conservationists agree that poaching still poses a dire threat to Africa’s rhino population, which hovers around 24,500 animals.
Now, in the hopes of driving down the value of rhino horn and reducing poaching even more, scientists have created a convincing artificial rhino horn made from horsehair.
“We’re not trying to supplant boots-on-the-ground, vigilant customs officials and protection of rhino habitat,” said Fritz Vollrath, a biologist at the University of Oxford and senior author of the study, published in Scientific Reports. “But these measures alone so far have not been sufficient to save the rhino, so what we’re doing here is bringing out a really good fake.”
The product that Dr. Vollrath and colleagues at Fudan University in China have produced looks identical to rhino horn under a microscope. It has a similar chemical signature and behaves like rhino horn when cut or shaved. It even smells the same when burned.
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