Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Synthetic Rhino Horns Are Being Created to Flood Markets and Eradicate Poaching

Very smart or Gresham's revenge?

From Futurism:
In Brief
Startup Pembient has proposed fabricating synthetic rhino horns that are indistinguishable from real horns. However, conservationists are worried that flooding the market with fake horns will actually drive up prices for real ones.
Cheating the Black Market
Since 2007, instances of rhino poaching in South Africa have increased by 9,000 percent, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The non-profit conservation group Save the Rhino estimates that 1,054 of the animals were illegally killed in 2016. To battle this horrifying trend, biotech startup Pembient hopes to undermine black market sales by creating synthetic rhino horns that are practically indistinguishable from real horns, down to the molecular level.

Pembient CEO and co-founder Matthew Markus thinks flooding the market with these synthetic rhino horns will be more effective than simply trying to stop rhino poaching.

“If you cordon rhino horn off, you create this prohibition mindset,” he told Business Insider. “And that engenders crime, corruption, and everything else that comes with a black market.” He hopes that by increasing the overall supply of horns, his company’s synthetic horns will lower the incentive for poachers to kill rhinos for real ones.

Unintended Effect
In part, rhino horns are popular thanks to their perceived medical benefits. Practitioners of traditional Asian medicine use powdered rhino horn for everything from hangover cures to cancer treatments. However, rhino horns are composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up the hair on your head. A tea made from the clippings found on the floor of your local barbershop likely has the same healing properties as one of these horns....MORE
Just make sure the poachers don't put rhinos on the blockchain.
See "All I Asked Was 'Is the Red Snapper Good Here?'" for provenance and Provenance:
Wary, yet curious, reader might be wondering "What are they going on about now?"
You may recall that some years ago the very connected (Tiger Management founder Julian Robertson's Robertson Foundation, Geneva-based British billionaire Alan Parker's Oak Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Rockefeller Bros. et al) Oceana issued a report that huge amounts of seafood were not what they purported to be.

Specifically in New York City they found, via DNA analysis, "39 percent of the 142 seafood samples collected and DNA tested from grocery stores, restaurants and sushi venues were mislabeled."

Interestingly, Oceana's approach is a bit different from many conservancy organizations, highlighted by the greeting on their homepage:  
Restoring the ocean could feed 1 billion people a healthy seafood meal every day.
They understand the oceans are a resource whose use can be optimized.

Since the report came out (discussed here at Forbes, Dec. 2012) we've been paying attention to efforts to track fishy provenance, granted that this is more out of taste considerations than ecology, but paying attention nonetheless..

Additionally, there are other concerns.
One of the fish sometimes oftentimes, especially in sushi, mislabeled as tuna is escolar.
Be wary.
Seriously, be wary*

Here's the latest on chain-of-evidence, from FT Alphaville:

Tuna blockchains and Chilean Seabass
This is a schematic from a London-based company called Provenance which is trying to “commit tuna” to the Ethereum blockchain. It comes via a report with a handy public link:...