By Robert T. Gonzalez
In 2006, researchers undertook an extensive search for Western black rhinos in Cameroon, the place where the species was last sighted. No rhinos were found. Researchers failed to turn up any evidence of their dung, tracks, or signs of feeding. Had the rare subspecies of black rhinoceros gone the way of the dodo? Sadly, yes.
Yesterday, citing the rampant practice of wildlife poaching and a failure to act by Cameroon authorities, the world's largest conservation network declared Africa's Western black rhino officially extinct.
But wait a minute. You just read about black rhinos the other day. There were a whole bunch of them being sedated, blindfolded, and airlifted to safety. And they were upside-down. Yes, of course you saw it — the sight of a 3,000-pound mammal soaring upside-down over a vast African landscape is not a sight you soon forget.
So how can they be extinct?
Well, they can't. But another subspecies of black rhino can. The now-famous flying rhinos belong to one of the four recognized subspecies of black rhinoceros, namely Diceros bicornis minor. And believe it or not, with an estimated population of just 4,240 members, D. b. minor is still the most numerous of the four subspecies.
Of course, the least numerous is now the Western black rhino, known formally as D. b. longipes. In the annual update to its Red List of threatened species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the latest assessment of the Western Black Rhino had led it to declare the species extinct. More....