In India, the startup Arunachal Ivory and Ornaments is using 3D printing to preserve the traditions of indigenous peoples while protecting endangered species. The company makes replicas of animal teeth and claws used in the traditional headdress of the Nyishi people in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Nyishi traditionally decorate their caps with teeth from tigers or clouded leopards, as well as claws from eagles. According to Nyishi entrepreneur Nabam Bapu, these animal parts symbolize the power of animals. But due to declining animal numbers, Bapu and technology expert Anang Tadar decided to recreate the animal parts using 3D printing.
Over two years, they experimented with materials such as resin and plastic. It was important to consult with village elders to ensure the authenticity of the replicas. Meanwhile, the startup produces teeth of tigers, leopards and wild boars, as well as eagle claws. It is currently working on a 3D model of the hornbill beak.
According to Tadar, the replicas are intended to provide an ethical alternative to expensive and illegally traded animal parts. The company hopes to help preserve traditions and protect animals. Similar projects exist in South Africa, for example, where leopard skins are imitated.
The market for traditional animal parts is huge, according to Bapu. However, it is difficult to control poaching in the remote region, he said. This is where the 3D replicas could help. Bapu is convinced that modern technologies can help preserve traditions and protect animals at the same time.