There are only three Northern white rhinos left in the world, and sadly, the one male is gravely ill. He is forty-five years old and is facing death due to natural causes. The hope of a naturally conceived rhino is now slim to none, so scientists are trying to see if in-vitro fertilization is an option or if cross-breeding with another species of rhino is possible. The loss of the northern white rhino will follow the loss of the western black rhino, which became extinct seven years ago.
The three remaining northern white rhinos are under heavy armed protection at all times. While Asia has made strides at reducing the demand for elephant ivory the past few years, rhino horn is still being sold in many open markets in countries like Vietnam. Misinformation that rhino horn treats disease such as cancer has made prices soar.
All rhino species are in danger, and organizations such as Save the Rhino are doing the best they can to educate, inform, and raise awareness. Some fundraising has been creative – for example, last year Tinder named the Northern white rhino male as the most eligible bachelor in the world. But, rhinos do not share the same prestige as elephants (which have been featured in countless fables, children’s stories, art, religious imagery, etc), and it has been more difficult to get the public to rally to save rhinos or to open their wallets for the cause.
(photo taken at my zoo)
Sad news featured on BBC today:
Esmond Bradley Martin, 75, was found with a stab wound to his neck at home in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.
The former UN special envoy for rhino conservation was known for his undercover work establishing black-market prices.
An influential conservationist, Martin was fearless in his pursuit for truth and justice. He traveled to a China, Laos, Vietnam, and other locations posing as a black market dealer, taking secret photographs of ivory whilst in the presence of gang members. He was instrumental in providing accurate reports of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade to the UN and conservation groups, and gets a lot of credit for pushing China to ban ivory.
A US citizen, he first went to Kenya in the 1970s to begin his reports to combat the rise of ivory trading. He died there in his home, likely the unfortunate victim of robbery rather than a premeditated revenge killing.
Tributes from groups like Save the Elephants have been released in the press and on social media.
Bad news from The Economist regarding rhino horns:
On March 30th South Africa’s constitutional court overturned the ban on domestic trade. Now, if they have the right permit, people can trade rhino horn, but not export it. TRAFFIC’s Mr Milliken worries that this will lead to the worst of all worlds. Allowing some legal trade while the authorities are not properly enforcing the ban on illegal trade will muddy already murky waters. Once out of the country, legal and illegal horn will be all but indistinguishable. So users in Vietnam will have cheaper supplies; the illegal dealers still in control of the export trade will pocket the profits; and rhinos will keep falling to the poachers’ bullets.
Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, rhino horn is still popular in Southeast Asia (particularly Vietnam) as a medicinal substance. It is ground up and used to “cure” everything from the common cold to infertility to cancer.
(Photo taken at my zoo)
My local zoo is involved in conservation efforts. They raise money for the International Elephant Foundation through an event called ZooBrew, which allows local breweries to feature their beers as people go to the zoo after hours. The 2016 fundraiser raised $9500 to IEF’s Protecting Elephants Conservation Detection Dog Network. This program helps train dogs in Congo, DRC, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia to help track and defeat poachers.
The 2017 ZooBrew money will also go to this important organization.
The zoo also contributes money to the International Rhino Foundation with an event called Cinco de Rhino, another craft beer event.
I live in the Finger Lakes region of NY, so wine and beer sales boost our local economy. Innovative programming like this help keeps our zoo able to reach out to the larger community and educate people about conservation efforts.
Photo: taken at my local zoo
(Photo: Ikiwaner, Wikipedia, GNU free licensed image)
Rhinos Without Borders detailed how they transport rhinos from areas of poaching to safe zones in Africa. Four rhinos are put in a military plane. Each rhino weighs 1.5 tonnes, and it requires a massive human effort of twenty five people to load and unload him from the plane. The rhino must be awake yet sedated, so he is blindfolded and has ear plugs to help keep him calm during the almost three hour flight. The plane also carries armed security, as poachers are not afraid to shoot during the rescue process.
From the BBC:
Most of the world’s wild rhino population – between 20,000 and 25,000 individuals – live in South Africa, where poaching is rife.
Rhinos Without Borders ultimately wants to resettle 100 of them.
The cost of shifting just one animal is around $45,000, if you include the expense of monitoring teams and anti-poaching patrols.
But as over 1,000 a year are killed in South Africa, equivalent to one every 7.5 hours – it may be the price of avoiding extinction.
After the tragic killing of a zoo rhino in France by poachers, zoos in Europe are considering de-horning their rhinos. Rhino horns are similar to human hair or nails – they can be cut and grow back without pain. The procedure takes about one hour.
photo: taken at my local zoo
From The Guardian:
The Dvur Kralove zoo, 70 miles north-east of Prague, has four southern white rhinos and 17 black ones, the largest group of its kind in Europe.
Director Přemysl Rabas said on Tuesday that it was a tough decision to saw off the animals’ horns.
But, he added: “The risk that the rhinos currently face, not only in the wild but even in zoos, is too high.
“The safety of the animals is our first concern. A de-horned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino.”
Photo: taken at my local zoo
Rhinos face the same concerns as elephants: poaching, destruction of habitat, and political conflict and corruption failing to protect them.
They also share the same geographical areas – Africa and Asia. As is the case with elephants, the countries with high populations of rhinos include Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
3 out of the 5 rhino species are critically endangered, yet rhinos do not receive the worldwide attention elephants do.
There are roughly 28,000 rhinos left in the world, and some species may be extinct as early as 2024.
Organizations like Save The Rhino need your support. You can give donations, buy a gift in the online shop, help with fundraising by sharing videos/photos/commentary on social media or by hosting an event, volunteer abroad, or take a safari that supports rhino conservation. (Details on the website)