There are five types of rhinoceros on Earth. They are the Indian, Sumatran, Javan, Black, and White rhinos. All five species of rhinos are very close to extinction. The rhino population made a rapid decrease in the 1970’s when half of the world’s rhinos disappeared. There are an estimated 10,500 rhinos left worldwide. Their endangerment was cause by several reasons.
The Black Rhinoceros population had decreased 90 percent since 1970. There were approximately 65,000 black rhinos then and there are about 2,500 now. Unlike most large mammals, habitat loss has not been a significant factor in the decline of these rhinos. Rhino horns have always been thought to have great powers. In 5th century BC, a rhino horn was believed capable of rendering some poisons harmless. In other times and places, rhino horns were hung in a room where a woman was giving birth, believing it would ease her labor pains. Asians used rhino horns in traditional medicines for a thousand years without threatening the species’ power. Most people think that the decline of rhinos is because of poaching. This isn’t true. The cause was the soaring price of oil. Young men in the Arab country of Yemen covet rhino horns for elaborately carved dagger handles, symbols of wealth and status in that country. Until the 1970’s, few men could afford these prized dagger handles. But Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries are rich in oil, and prices for this “Black Gold” climbed dramatically in that decade due to a worldwide oil shortage. The result was a seven-fold increase in the per capita income in Yemen, a rise in wealth that made rhino horn dagger handles within the reach of almost everyone. This small country, with a population of 6 million at the time, suddenly became the world’s largest importer of rhino horns.
In order to keep the rhino’s from going extinct, there are some major efforts being made. Some rhinos are being moved away from unsafe areas where poachers are operating, to safe sanctuaries, and protection is being increased for rhinos in existing conservation areas. Efforts are being made to stop the illegal international trade in rhino horn, and harsher penalties for people caught poaching and dealing in the rhino horn are being introduced. Also, people are being persuaded to stop using rhino horn for medicines and cultural purposes. Human communities living in areas where rhino are found must be able to benefit from conservation efforts. For example, some of the money paid by tourists coming to see the rhino should be used to improve the local living conditions. This encourages the local people to protect the rhino.
The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) has played and important role in many pioneering approaches to rhino conservation, including the development of radio-telemetry systems for monitoring, further dehorning of rhinos as a deterrent to poaching, and the re-establishment of locally extinct rhino populations. It has also redirected its focus to the two most important African rhino range states – South Africa and Namibia. Throughout the 1990’s, WWF also provided substantial support to Namibia’s rhino conservation efforts. To secure what is the largest single population of black rhinos remaining on the continent, equipment and funds for ground and air surveillance have been made available to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism for work in Etosha National Park. Efforts have also focused on protecting the “desert-adapted’ subspecies, Diceros bicornis bicornis, the majority of which survive only in Namibia. WWF believes that rhino conservation and management in Namibia has also benefited from ongoing efforts to ensure that the rural communities that share their land with these animals obtain direct and sustainable benefits from wildlife-based tourism.
Hopefully, these efforts will help the rhino population grow back to the numbers they were in the 1960’s. These animals have been roaming the Earth for a very lone time and if we protect them instead of kill them, they will be roaming for many years to come. There will be many challenges in the future to preserve these magnificent creatures. If we help and support organizations such as the WWF, we will be successful in this battle.
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