Scientists create fake rhino horns to disrupt poacher market

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The tricky part is going to be planting those things into the supply chain without getting busted by the very authorities trying to stop poachers.

That’s one of the problems an investigator of the ivory trade ran into when he was traveling with a fake tusk that contained a hidden transmitter; he had documentation explaining what it was but the fake was so good that authorities initially didn’t believe him.




The best part: when powdered to make “medicine”, the fake ones work just as well as the real ones.


Up next: fake shark fins, followed by fake tigers.


Add some opiates into the fake horn, and watch demand for the fake stuff dwarf the real stuff.


I hope it works, but it sounds like a technical solution to a social problem, and those have a habit of going less than well.

Also, the rhino conservationists are less than enthusiastic about this solution:

John Taylor, deputy director of Save the Rhino International, is unconvinced how much fake horn would reduce the threat to rhinos.

He says there is a risk that attempts to “flood the market” would have the unintended consequence of expanding the market and creating even more demand, which could cause even more poaching for real rhino horn.


I’m pretty sure fake tiger penis is already available.

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Add some ipecac to the fake horn, and watch demand for real or fake vanish.


That’s why when you’re trying to sell a tiger penis, it’s got to be attached to the tiger, or it loses all its value.


Cool. Flood the market and make it unprofitable to poach.

I’d donate to this. Though maybe the could be self funding!


Hmmm. We have about 40 horses on the farm and now my hopes for a new source of income have been thoroughly dashed.

“it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired horn-like material that mimics the rhino’s extravagantly expensive tuft of nose hair”


The placebo effect can be a great thing.

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Call me when they make it lethally toxic. Until then, the people who make that crap don’t give a rat’s ass whether it’s real or not. They’re already packing those pills with Viagra.


They do, however, care about profit. If they can buy convincing horse horns for a fraction of the price of real rhino horn, they will.

You could even market them as unicorn horns. Those are supposed to have all kinds of miraculous medical properties.

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They still have to fool their customers, and that takes more than just saying it or they would have just been putting chalk into the “medicine” years ago.


Or, they could do what they just did. Plant a rumour that they’re putting fakes on the market.

Placebo like this works through faith. Facts don’t counter faith. Uncertainty counters faith. The manufacturer can’t say they’re testing purity – at what lab? Their own?

Plus that uncertainty is at every part of the supply chain, now. This could help more than enforcement has.

Or not. But the difference between stuff like this and drugs (where uncertainty and tainted supply don’t curb demand) is that drugs actually do something. Doubt can’t beat an actual addiction. But for placebo pills…


It would be nice to make the fake horns from high-pressure-compacted dehydrated pig droppings… just to see what happens.

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This is actually a bit of a problem. If the fake is just as good as the real thing then the end users aren’t affected and the demand doesn’t drop as hoped.