On the other hand, raising tigers, or certain fish species, or parrots, or ginseng hasn't protected wild populations precisely because taking from the wild, whether by poaching, or legally under a quota system, is at least financially competitive with the alternative product. So goes the Pembient argument.
Pembient also plans to insert a DNA marker that, while totally undetectable at the consumer level, would allow forensic investigators to determine synthetic rhino horn from that which was poached.
And yet, my friend Susie Watts, WildAid Africa Programs Manager, mirrors my own experience when she says she can't find any conservationist who agrees that the scheme will work. She told me, "I would actually have more respect for them-not a whole lot more, mind you-if they admitted that their real goal is to make money and to attract more funding for the next hare-brained scheme. Dressing their business plan up as conservation is deeply repulsive when rhinos are being butchered every day."
The reason for this antipathy for the business plan is that, while it is true that providing alternatives theoretically can work, it normally-usually-does not. And, to put it simply, that's because the choice to illegally use real rhino horn for such things as traditional medications, ornaments, recreational uses, and as a detoxifier (but not, contrary to popular lore and the Pembient webpage, as an aphrodisiac) has nothing to do with rational, logical thought processes.