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3D Printed Ivory Substitute Thwarts Black-Market

“[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.” (Ward, 2015) A 3D printed ivory works as a substitute good to wild ivory, competing on low-cost and better quality to thwart the black-market supply of wild ivory. “Just as there is faux fur, there should be a rhino horn alternative” (Corbyn, 2015) As the animal population numbers of rhinos and elephants decrease and the threat of extinction is present the importance of 3D printed substitutes are demanded for the protection of the many animals with highly valued skins, ivory, shells, or furs. “It is starting with rhino horn but has plans for more complex materials such as elephant tusk.” (Corbyn, 2015)

“Our goal is to replace the illegal wildlife trade, a $20B black market, the fourth largest after drug, arms, and human trafficking, with sustainable commerce,” Pembient [announced] on its Web site.” (Maynard, 2015) Flooding the market would ensure increased supply while protecting against the number of poaching, as the synthetic ivory is cheaper and higher quality it decreases the black-market supply and demand of real ivory. “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.” (Ward, 2015) Along with consumer awareness around endangered species, there is a present gap in the market for such private market competition against black-market products.

“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.” (Ward, 2015) However, there is still controversy as to whether the supply of 3D printed ivory would decrease or even increase the supply and demand for the real ivory. Though, it follows that if credit expansion devalues the currency, ivory expansion should devalue the ivory. “Dean adds that ersatz horn is unlikely to dent the market – if people can afford the real thing they are going to buy it – and rebukes the company for failing properly to consult conservation professionals on the idea first.” (Corbyn, 2015) Public opinion requires actual evidence to be convinced, however, for now it seems a good step in the right direction. We have also proven that the private market can protect endangered species through allowing private ownership of animals. “Several hundred rhinos, mostly on small private reserves, have been treated [with red dye], with signs posted on perimeter fences to warn poachers off.” (Corbyn, 2015) To be convinced of this look at how many cows there are compared to how many wild animals there are.

“The current approach – better law enforcement combined with demand-reduction campaigns – isn’t working, he argues and something needs to be done before it is too late. (Markus in Corbyn, 2015) The reason for lies in the fact that economics must look at the less unseen and immediate effects of any economic policy imposed by governments which aim to have goods intentions but once imposed have untended consequences. “The justification for this is clear: by banning the sale of the horns and thus making them less available, the price for them has gone through the roof, creating incredible monetary incentives for poachers.” (Wiegold, 2015) It is also more accepted than the truth that legalizing the industry. “In a recent [move] that is likely to come as a surprise to many animal lovers around the world, the South African government is asking the international community to legalize the rhino horn trade as a means to save the animal and to fight poaching.” (Wiegold, 2014) This is a basic economic supply and demand fact, in addition though allowing private ownership of an animal would increase it’s population and pedigree, like that of dogs or horses. “Meanwhile, the rhino has been stripped of a major source of its value in legal markets, which has caused private owners of rhinos to question the profitability of providing heavily for the animal’s security.” (Wiegold, 2015) We must also consider the unintended policies of governments which aim to protect endangered species as they don’t achieve the ends to which they were intended, see this video on Saving Endangered Species here Source: (Boudreaux, 2012).


Corbyn, Z. (2015). Can we save the rhino from poachers with a 3D printer?. The Guardian.Retrieved [02/04/2016] from <>.

Maynard, J. (2015). Incredibly realistic 3D-printed horns could put an end to rhino poaching. Tech Times. Retrieved [02/04/2016] from <>.

Ward, A. (2015). Synthetic rhino horns are being 3D printed in an effort to defeat poachers. The Independent. Retrieved [02/04/2016] from <>.

Wiegold, B. (2014). Endangered species, private property, and the american bison. Retrieved [02/04/2016] from <>.

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