Synthetic rhino horns are being 3D printed in an effort to defeat poachers

A startup firm in San Francisco is using the technique to flood the Chinese market for rhino horns with cheap synthetic products

A biotech firm has managed to 3D print fake rhino horns as part of a bid to curb poaching.

Pembient, a startup based in San Francisco, plans to flood the Chinese market with the synthetic horns which carry the same genetic fingerprint as the real thing.

The firm uses keratin and rhino DNA to produce a dried powder which is then 3D printed to look similar to original horns, the digital journal reported.

The company also plans to release a beer brewed with the synthetic horns later this year.

According to Matthew Markus, CEO of Pembient, the company will sell the horns at a fraction of the price of real horns, undercutting poachers to force them out of the market.

“We can produce a rhinoceros horn product that is actually more pure than what you can get from a wild animal,” Mr Markus told the digital journal.

“Demand reduction is important, but hard to do, especially when you’re tackling so many things,” Mr Markus added to the Fast Company.

Conservation groups have also voiced concern over the plans, saying that although Pembient may have good intentions, there is a danger that flooding the market with fake rhino horns could increase demand for real ones.

Susie Ellis, executive director of International Rhino Foundation, said in a statement to Quartz: “Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn [and] could increase the demand for ‘the real thing’.

“Questions arise as to how law enforcement authorities will be able to detect the difference between synthetic and real horn, especially if they are sold as powder or in manufactured products.”