Endangered Species of the Week: Black Rhino

TWPZ-Black-Rhino-calf-Photo-by-Rick-Stevens

Rhinos are one of the oldest groups of mammals, virtually living fossils. They play an important role in their habitats and in countries like Namibia, rhinos are an important source of income from ecotourism. The protection of black rhinos creates large blocks of land for conservation purposes. This benefits many other species, including elephants.

Black rhinos are the smaller of the two African rhino species. The most notable difference between white and black rhinos are their hooked upper lip. This distinguishes them from the white rhino, which has a square lip. Black rhinos are browsers rather than grazers, and their pointed lip helps them feed on leaves from bushes and trees. They have two horns, and occasionally a third, small posterior horn.

Of all the threats facing black rhinos, poaching is the deadliest. Black rhinos have two horns which make them lucrative targets for the illegal trade in rhino horn. Political instability and wars have greatly hampered rhino conservation work in Africa, notably in Angola, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan. This situation has exacerbated threats such as trade in rhino horn and increased poaching due to poverty.

Today, black rhinos remain critically endangered because of rising demand for rhino horn, from some Asian consumers, particularly in Vietnam and China, who use them in folk remedies. A recent increase in poaching in South Africa threatens to erase our conservation success, reaching an apex in 2014 when 1,215 rhinos were poached. Poaching numbers are slowly decreasing—1,054 were poached in 2016—but poaching continues unabated with numbers remaining unsustainably high.

Next to poaching, loss of habitat contributes to declines in rhino population. Human activities such as agriculture, settlements, and infrastructure development result in the loss and fragmentation of rhino habitat, which increases the risk of poaching and inbreeding.

If you would like to contribute to the efforts to preserve this rhino, you can “adopt” them through the World Wildlife Organization at this link: Adopt a Rhino!

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*All content courtesy of worldwildlife.org*

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