Since I first learned of the concept of "gene splicing" some decades ago, I have wondered why no one has addressed the following: Why not genetically engineer beef cattle so their horns will be "naturally" made of ivory? Yes, ivory. Both substances are (to my untrained eye) remarkably similar in appearance and consistency. I expect the animal wouldn't know the difference and would not suffer (more than it already does). More than 30 million head of cattle are produced each year in the U.S. alone. Within a short time, ivory would be as rare and treasured as styrofoam. An incredible 50,000 elephants are slaughtered each year for their tusks. That would end almost overnight. The developer of this process would "single handedly" save one of the most majestic creatures on the planet.
We put John's interesting suggestion to Kat Arney...
Kat - I love this idea. I think this is such a great idea. Unfortunately, itís not going to work because the problem is, is that the substance that makes ivory is basically teeth Ė same thing as your teeth. Itís teeth and tusks, they're dentine covered with this hard, white enamel. So, in terms of the development of where the teeth come from and where ivory tusks come from, itís all kind of part of the toothy stuff but cow horns are actually made of living bone, covered with a really thick layer of keratin. Itís the same protein thatís in your skin, your hair, your nails, that kind of thing. and so, they have a completely different developmental origin. They're growing out of the skull. So, to actually switch cow horns into making ivory, you're asking bones to turn into teeth and grow in a completely wrong place because cowís teeth obviously grow in their mouths, not out of the top of their heads. So although itís a lovely idea, I donít think that's going to work.
Counterfeit Rolex watches outnumber the real thing , but their existence hasn't stopped people buying the real McCoy.
Unfortunately, I think RD is quite right. 'Cow horn ivory', if you could call it that, would not even be considered by ivory collectors, even if it were biologically and chemically identical to elephant ivory. They want the real thing.
Here in the USA, the market on ivory has pretty much bottomed out. I have inherited what was probably a cheap ivory necklace (pre 80's), and nobody will even appraise it. I don't know if it could be sold. I suppose it wouldn't be a big loss to destroy it.
I don't think the it would make any difference. You would have a hard time producing elephant size tusks on any animal smaller then a elephant anyway. I See no reason why elephants must be killed to harvest ivory anyway. We cut the tusks of domesticated elephants and they don't die. Also there is not much chemical difference between your toe nail clippings and a rhino's horn yet in many asian countries they believe rhino horn has some medical or dietary benefit worth killing rhinos to get it. So producing another source of ivory is not going to stop people from wanting elephant ivory. And why is domestic breeding of cattle for meat, leather and other byproducts better then managing a elephant herd for the same? We seem to have double standards toward one animal vs another most cultural. For example in the US horse meat is taboo but commonly eaten throughout the world. Even though we hardly have no monopoly on rising horses for sport and companionship we just draw the line on eating flicka.
It seems to me that the key to this theory is with the people doing the 'manufacturing' of the ivory pieces. As an artist, I have to be aware of the costs of my materials, I would seriously consider a cheaper sources when ever they are available. I might be much more inclined if the customer could not tell the difference, if I were dealing with something like stones or ivory. In fact, couldn't they be sourced to the craftsmen as well with out them knowing if they were not sold whole? I was once given a piece of ivory to use as a stone in jewelry making it was just a piece, not a tusk, how would I know the difference? These could be sold the the African (and other) craftsmen to make trinkets to sell to the 'stupid rich tourists' without destroying their world. This could/should be one of those times when a little clever dishonesty would work for us all. Just let the poachers be the wholesale horn sellers. Then we just need to increase penalties for poaching. SHWZ, Fri, 8th Jan 2016
- Elephant tusks are actually huge, modified upper incisor teeth. They have roots, dentine, cementum, living pulp and are deeply embedded their own tooth socket. Interestingly, they donít have enamel.
The latest figures suggest that about 50,000 elephants are being killed every year, from a worldwide population of around 450,000.
Why don't just grow ivory in the lab?