Rhino horns seized at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport (Photo: VNA)
The Education for Nature-Vietnam (ENV) and international wildlife animal preservation organisations issued a joint statement on September 22 opposing the use of synthetic rhino horns as a solution to preventing the hunt for rhinos in the world.

The organisations that formed an union of wildlife animal preservation organisations warned that the trafficking of synthetic rhino horns not only stimulates demand for real products but also poses difficulties for law enforcement agencies to distinguish the genuine and the artificial.

The development of synthetic rhino horns was an initiative by the US-based company Pembient, set up in January 2015 with the goal to end the illegal trade of wild animals.

The company used biotechnology to create rhino horns based on the genetic sources of real rhinos.

Pembient said it will use the DNA of real rhino horns to produce artificial products and create a source of enormous rhino horns worth only 1/8 of the current price in the market.

It expects the products would be too “real” to distinguish from the actual horn.

The company is now ready to make inroads into Vietnam by producing ads about the “nature” of rhino horns in order to stimulate consumer demand.

In China, Pembient is working with a brewery plant in Beijing to produce “rhino horn beer”, which is set to be released later this year.

According to the 1998 Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of the US, the union of wildlife animal conservation organisations proposed the US Government stop all Pembient’s activities relating to trade promotion, advertisement, development, production and exports of synthetic rhino horns.

The union also asked the US Government to suspend consideration of the company’s application for a rhino patent and trademark.

Vietnam and China are seen as the two biggest rhino horn consumption markets globally. In Vietnam, rhino horn is used as a panacea and is a symbol of social status.

In fact, a study from the TRAFFIC organisation showed that 90 percent of rhino horns sold in Vietnam are fake. The popularity of artificial rhino horns does not reduce demand for the real thing, rather increasing the hunt for the genuine.

Director of the Outraged South African Citizens against Poaching Allison Thompson has vehemently opposed Pembient’s plan.

In Vietnam, the ENV also condemned the US company’s business plan. Senior Advisor to the ENV Doug Hendrie said Pembient’s synthetic rhino products would hinder efforts to diminish the consumption of rhino horn in Vietnam and increase the blind faith in its medical treatment.

Moreover, the parallel existence of real and synthetic rhino horns will make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to distinguish, he noted.

South Africa and India boast the largest population of rhinos in Africa and Asia with 20,000 and 2,900 rhinos, respectively.

However, the number of rhinos killed annually in South Africa has rapidly increased in recent years from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014. Since early this year, at least 749 rhinos have been killed in South Africa.

In India, about 107 rhinos were killed from 2010 to 2014 with the figure from the beginning of this year at 13.-VNA