Scientists at Oxford and Fudan University in China have developed a way to make fake rhino horns from horse hair. They hope these phony horns will be used to "confuse the trade," and make poaching less lucrative.
The scientists say the "horn" of a rhino is not like the horn of a cow, but is formed from tufts of tightly packed hair that are glued together by secretions from the animal.
And the team of zoologists in Oxford and molecular scientists in Fudan University in Shanghai have developed a way of compressing and moulding horse hair in a way that looks and feels similar even when the "horn" is cut.
If credible fakes could be produced cheaply, the scientists say it would cut prices and reduce the incentive for killing the rhinos.
"It appears from our investigation that 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," said Prof Fritz Vollrath, from the University of Oxford's Department of Zoology.
He said he hoped the technique could be used to "confuse the trade, depress prices and thus support rhino conservation".
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