The Rhinoceros (also known as the Rhino) is a very large land mammal that lives throughout Africa and Asia. They are herbivorous creatures and widely recognized by their distinct horn which is composed of keratin (like human nails) and rises from the nose. In some traditional medicine beliefs, the rhino horn is prized for its supposed medicinal powers. To meet the demand for this horn, which is now illegal to use, the rhino has been poached to near extinction. Surviving rhinoceros species and their population are as follows:
- Black rhinos (5,042 - 5,455)
- White rhinos (19,682 - 21,077)
- Greater One-horned rhinos (3,500+)
- Sumatran rhinos (<100)
- Javan rhinos (58 - 61)
South African poaching of these great animals has been on the rise, with the exception of 2015 when there was a slight decrease from 2014 numbers. Despite that small decrease, poaching trends have spread to other neighboring countries, which were previously less involved, and their poaching numbers actually doubled. In the last 8 years, at least 5,940 African rhinos have perished.
Poaching Statistics in South Africa Today
To illustrate the increase in poaching numbers, the following information looks at years and known number of rhino deaths in South Africa. Beginning in 2007, poaching numbers were recorded at 13. Nearly 6 times the number of rhinos were killed the following year, 83 in 2008. This trend continues through 2009 which saw a loss of 122 lives. Three hundred and thirty-three rhinos were illegally poached in 2010 and the number continued to grow through the next 4 years. South Africa lost 448 rhinos in 2011, 668 in 2012, 1,004 in 2013, and 1,215 in 2014. These illegal killing decreased slightly in 2015 which reports 1,175 rhino losses. As previously mentioned, the poaching may have decreased in South Africa but it more than doubled in the neighboring countries of Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The Rhino Horn Trade
The trading of the rhino horn was banned in 1977 via the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). However, the demand for continues to grow and traffickers have established intricate smuggling routes that eventually end in Asia, the world leading market for rhino horns. Here, Vietnam is the largest consumer and China follows at a close second. Despite lacking scientific evidence, traditional healers tout rhino horns as the cure for cancers, erectile dysfunction, and even hangovers.
Protecting the Rhino
From an estimated 1 million rhinos during the 19th Century to around 28,000 today, the rhino is an extremely threatened species. In fact, 3 of the surviving 5 species are classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species. Protecting the rhinoceros species is important for the well-being of many other plants and animals that share the same ecosystem. Their increased numbers also contribute to increases in the tourism industry which helps the local economy grow. Individuals outside of South Africa and Asia can help protect the rhino by donating to responsible nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are on the ground working with local law enforcement and monitoring existing populations. Donations are used to fund educational programs and buy anti-poaching equipment. Also, individuals can spread awareness by talking about the plight of the rhino with friends, family, coworkers, and students. Increased education is extremely beneficial and informs others of the problem. In turn, they may decide to become advocates and join the fight to save the rhino.
Rhino Poaching In South Africa: 2007 to 2015
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