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CEES Affiliate Examines the Economics of Synthetic Rhino Horns

June 23, 2017

Associated Professor of Economics and CEES affiliate Frederick Chen, published a paper examining the potential impact of synthetic horns to reduce rhino poaching. In the paper, Chen analyzes whether the availability of synthetic horns would decrease the equilibrium supply of wild horns, the competitiveness of the synthetic horn production sector, and the ability for synthetic horns to be substitutable for wild horns.  

“Rhino horns are highly valued in Asian countries such as Vietnam, and the rhino populations in Africa and Asia continue to be threatened by poaching. Poachers have become more sophisticated in recent years in terms of skill and equipment—no doubt a reflection of how lucrative trading in rhino horns is. In terms of price per unit weight, rhino horns are worth more than gold or diamond.

To help deal with the poaching crisis, a few biotech companies have set their sights on developing synthetic versions of rhino horns using the latest science and technology. The premise behind such a strategy is straightforward: if synthetic horns that are biologically identical (bio-identical) to the real thing can be produced at a lower cost compared to the cost of supplying wild horns, the demand for wild horns would decrease as buyers shift consumption towards the synthetic products. This, of course, would reduce people’s incentive to poach rhinos.”

Click here to read the full paper published on ScienceDirect.

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