Using the Crowd to Save the Black Rhino

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Crowdfunding might have funded potato salad and reading programs for kids, but it is also becoming influential in the scientific world as well. One of the most unique projects is a crowdfunding campaign that is planned to fund a project which intends to sequence the genome of the black rhino. At the time of this writing, there are about 5,000 of this species left who live out in the wild. By understanding the DNA building blocks of the animal, the goal is to save the animal by making them less attractive to poachers.

“You can hardly do anything without knowing the genome,” Chuck Murray, who is a member of the crowdfunding team and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, told the Washington Post.

Saving the Black Rhino Through Synthetic Products

If history has taught us anything, it is that humans struggle to change their ways. The superstitions we have regarding certain animals and products doesn’t go away, even if there are facts to prove those superstitions are false. When it comes to the Black Rhino, poachers are after the horns of the animal only because they are seen as a “natural medicine” or a status symbol of wealth.

In just 22 years, over 95% of the wild Black Rhino population was killed according to data supplied by the World Wildlife Foundation. Even with extreme conservation efforts in place, more than 300 animals are still killed every year. Extinction is expected within a decade unless something changes.

That’s why scientists are crowdfunding to sequence the genome. Murray and his team believe that they can create synthetic horns based on the DNA of the Black Rhino to satisfy the needs of the poachers and those who want the status symbols of wealth so that the animal can be saved.

Can regenerative medicine be crowdfunded and used to preserve an entire species? It is thinking that is outside of the box, but that is perfect for the crowdfunding world. It is clear that the efforts to reduce demands for the horn of this animal have not succeeded as intended. Murray may have an idea that is very far outside of the box, but it is an idea that could change the way science and crowdfunding comes together as well.

If successful, a crowdfunding push to save the DNA of even more animals for study and regenerative medicine development could create a whole new field of study. For now, just gathering the data from the Black Rhino is information that could be valuable in numerous ways.