Tuesday, September 22, 2015

International Rhino Day 2015

Coming this Thursday is Elephant and Rhino day at the Animal Kingdom, but today is International Rhino day. So I wanted to take a moment and discuss rhinoceros conservation.

These animals are some of my favorites. They are so prehistoric looking. In fact, rhinos can be seen in prehistoric cave paintings from Europe where they once roamed. They were widespread throughout Africa and Asia in more recent times, being found in the Asian forests and African plains.

There are many threats to all species of rhino. The most well known is obviously poaching. Powdered horn is used as herbal medicine in Asia for a variety of issues ranging from cancer to impotence to hangovers. Poaching has exploded in recent years and the demand is being driven by an increasing upper middle class in Vietnam where the ownership of a horn is a sign of stature. In South Africa where 40% of the black rhino population lives, there were 1215 incidents of poaching in 2014 alone. Poachers have even taken to using helicopters and night vision equipment as the profit for a horn has increased dramatically.

Habitat loss is another issue, particularly for the Asian species of rhino. Things like logging, expansion of farming and dam construction has taken a toll on the rain forest where the majority of the animals live.

This Greater One Horned Rhino resides at the Bronx Zoo

There are 5 species of rhino. In Africa, there is the White and Black rhinos. In Asia, there is the Greater One-horned rhino as well as the Javan and Sumatran species. Only the Greater One-horned species (which currently numbers about 3400 in the wild) and the White rhino (which numbers about 20,000) are not critically endangered, although both are in serious trouble. The Black rhino numbers about 5,000 in the wild. Worse still are the Javan rhino and the Sumatran rhino which both number less than 100 individuals in their jungle homes.

By Safari Mike


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