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Experts create fake horn in bid to save rhinos

Nov 12, 2019, 08.41 AM IST
WASHINGTON: Since demand for rhino horns has nearly driven the species to extinction, researchers have developed a way to create fake horns with the help of horse hair.

Published in Scientific Reports, researchers hope their method will provide a blueprint to create credible fakes that could eventually flood a market which has decimated the wild rhino population. In Chinese medicine, rhino horn is believed to have many benefits, including working as an aphrodisiac.

In reality, the sellers are often cutting the horn with ground-up Viagra. Whatever the exact hidden blend may be, the undimmed demand for rhino horn continues to drive poaching.

The study aims to provide a way to confuse and thus hopefully diminish the demand for real rhino horns by showing a way to a vastly cheaper copy that can be used to infiltrate the market.

The rhino’s horn is actually a tuft of hair that grows, tightly packed and glued together by exudates from sebaceous glands, on its nose.

The scientists bundled together tail hair of the rhino’s near relative, the horse, and glued them together with a bespoke matrix of regenerated silk to mimic the collagenous component of a real horn. This approach allowed them to fabricate sample structures that were confusingly similar to real rhino horns in look, feel and properties.

“It appears from our investigation that it is rather easy as well as cheap to make a bio-inspired hornlike material,” said co-lead author, Professor Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford.

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