Rhino crisis

Take a look at the above picture, soon, all that might be left is pictures such as these.  As our children, grandchildren and generations to come may learn about the Rhinoceros in a similar way to previous generations learnt about dinosaurs.  With the exception of causation of the end of the species being entirely different.  While the dinosaurs extinction has been attributed to astrological, geographical or weather changes the decline and extinction of the Rhinoceros can only be blamed on humankind.

Wild rhino populations down to 29,000 from half a million at the beginning of the 20th century

Sadly, this species continues to pay the price. While Rhinos once roamed in their millions across large swathes of Asia and Africa, it’s estimated that there are only 29,00 left in the world and an average of 1,000 individuals are poached annually.  The survival of some species are more endangered than others, shamefully there are reportedly only three northern white rhinos left in the world.

Rhino’s have been endangered in the past, the first period of decline was caused by wholesale Colonial-era hunting and habitat loss as land was increasingly turned to agriculture and urban development.  Concentrated efforts in 1970’s and 1980’s saw an increase in Rhino populations and reintroduction into some areas.  However, the Rhino is now at threat again from poaching and the illegal trade in Rhino horn.

Since 2008 poaching has become the major contributor to the decline of the Rhino, threatening to undo all the good work. In some cultures it is believed that rhino horn possesses potent qualities and medicinal benefits and it is a popular component in Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, none of the claims regarding its powers are backed up by hard evidence.

While the International trade in rhino horn is banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora). In South Africa particularly there is a call to legalise the trade in rhino horn. 

I recently corresponded with the British High Commission in Pretoria and was informed that:

  • Their officials have been in contact with the South African authorities to seek further information on the measures announced.  An was ensured that the UK is actively supporting efforts to ensure the survival of rhino in the wild, for example through projects supported by our Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund. We are opposed to any reopening of international commercial trade in rhinoceros horn.   
  • The UK works closely with international partners to agree tough measures on protecting rhinos through involvement in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). 
  • The UK has played a leading role in efforts to combat the poaching and trafficking that threatens the survival of rhinos. In November last year, the Secretary of State announced an additional £13 million in UK funding to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, doubling our current investment. This includes support for initiatives to boost law enforcement, reduce demand for wildlife products such as rhino horn, and develop sustainable livelihoods for communities living alongside the species affected.

Sadly now it is not just wild rhino’s that are threatened, recently the shameless killing of a rhinoceros at a Paris zoo shocked the western world. The Paris zoo as with many others was ill prepared for this level of wildlife crime. Attackers broke in to the enclosure, slaughtered the Rhino  and removed a horn valued at nearly triple the price of gold. This  put zookeepers on high alert with some zoo’s reportedly removing the horns from rhinos. Customs officers worldwide are currently on notice that poaching could be spreading beyond the killing fields of Africa and Asia.

One horn can weigh four kilos. Currently black market rhino horn sells for up to $60,000 per kilo, with demand mostly coming from China and Vietnam. To feed the demand it is currently estimated that poachers are killing 3 rhinos per day.  As the demand for rhino horn shows little sign of abating despite It is clear that urgent global action is required in the countries where demand is high. The WWF warnings that numbers are “perilously close to the tipping point” should not be ignored.



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