At the root of the rhino crisis is the myth that rhino horn contains curative properties. World Rhino Day highlights efforts to debunk the myths and diminish the demand for rhino horn.
Rhinos are in crisis. Let’s not shy away from that fact. Let’s embrace that fact rather, as with awareness comes resolve.
The world knows just how threatened rhinos are. Sudan, the last male northern white rhino died in March this year. An iconic ambassador of his species, his death served to highlight more than ever how close to the brink of extinction the rest of them are, and with populations declining at a rapid rate due to large-scale poaching across Africa in particular, who knows how long rhinos will be around for?
White and Black rhinoceros populations number approximately 20,000 and 5000 respectively. The fact remains that as recently as the 1970s there were over 60,000 black rhinos in Africa, and the white rhino, the focus of one of the world’s greatest conservation stories in which the species was brought back from roughly 100 individuals at the beginning of the 20th century to number over 20,000, has for the first time in almost a century experienced a population decline as a direct result of escalating poaching levels.
Thankfully it is not all doom and gloom. Safe havens like Londolozi still exist in which rhino species are protected around the clock, and the integration of advanced technologies into anti-poaching efforts have meant that the men and women protecting rhinos on the ground can be one step ahead of would-be poachers. To be forewarned is to be forearmed:
With the recognition of the severity of the poaching crisis, outside investors have been contributing to both private reserves and national parks, and the benefits are starting to show in 2018.
In South Africa as of the end of August 2018:
- 183 less rhino have been poached compared to this time last year .
- In the Kruger National Park, 40 less rhino were poached compared to this time last year.
- Over 400 arrests have been made of suspected rhino poachers and 13 traffickers so far this year.
Whilst these figures may not seem overly impressive at first glance, in the context of the poaching trends of the last decade, the turnaround has been huge. The number of rhinos poached increased exponentially, rising from 83 to 1215 every year between 2008 and 2014!
Then in 2015, finally, the number of poached rhinos decreased from the year before. And they have decreased every year since that.
Although the number of rhinos lost across the country and Africa as a whole is still unacceptably high, the mere fact that a drop is occurring shows that ground is being made, albeit slowly.
The private sector in particular has seen success after tightening their protection measures, as private reserves generally have less area to be covered by their anti-poaching teams, making patrols and surveillance that much more effective. The safe havens that Londolozi and other reserves represent for rhinos are fast becoming the bastions of hope in a crisis that won’t be averted overnight.
As wonderful as it is to have a global initiative like World Rhino Day that showcases the plight of these animals, the reality is that their continued protection is an around-the-clock, 365 days a year effort.
Thankfully though, through repeated drives and campaigns, the required awareness of the threats to their survival is ever-spreading, and the hard fight to save the species, that is sometimes taking place in the face of almost overwhelming odds, is slowly – and hopefully inexorably – gathering momentum.