Unfortunately, due to a long-standing belief in their medicinal powers in Asia, there's still a huge demand for rhino horns on the black market. They can sell for as much as $35,000 per pound.
Pembient, a bioengineering company out of San Francisco, is working to create a rhino horn alternative. According to Fast Company's Co. Exist, the product is made using “a little synthetic rhino horn DNA and a series of chemical reactions” which ultimately produces a fake horn with an identical genetic makeup to the real thing.
The product—which will be sold in powder and horn form—is already being used at a Beijing brewery to make rhino horn beer. The company has also developed a skin care line.
Matthew Markus, Pembient’s CEO, compared his product to a universal cutting agent used in the drug trade. Because a synthetic rhino horn is cheaper and cleaner—but also equal in quality to a real one—“anyone in the trade will naturally gravitate to using our product," rather than the pricey, illegally-procured horns, he says.
The company’s overall goal “is to replace the illegal wildlife trade, a $20B black market, the fourth largest after drug, arms, and human trafficking, with sustainable commerce.”
Much like how faux fur and vegan leather have gained popularity in the fashion industry, the hope is that these synthetic rhino horns will transform the Asian pharmaceutical industry.