By Rosie Mitchell
September 22 is World Rhino Day. Awareness of the critical situation facing the rhinoceros, of which five species remain worldwide, is thankfully gathering the momentum it needs. But will it be too little, too late?
Three of these five rhino species are classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Critically Endangered — the Black Rhino, the Javan Rhino and the Sumatran Rhino. The Indian or Greater One-Horned Rhino is classified as vulnerable, and the White Rhino, near threatened. Critically endangered is the highest IUCN wild animal risk category and is ascribed to species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.
Endangered species face a very high risk of extinction. Vulnerable species are deemed likely to become endangered unless circumstances threatening survival and reproduction improve. Near threatened species may be considered threatened with extinction in the near future; while the term threatened encompasses the three categories, critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable. Threatened species are also referred to as Red-Listed as they are found in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Sumatran Rhino has been on earth longer than any other living mammal. Less than 100 remain in the wild. The Javan Rhino is considered probably the rarest mammal on earth, with somewhere between 37 and 44 remaining in the wild.
By far the majority of the world’s precious remaining rhino populations live in our own southern African region, including, in this country. South Africa, home to the largest populations, has been the target of horrific levels of poaching, with 333 rhino killed in 2010, 448 in 2011 and 668 in 2012.
This year, to August, the number of rhino gruesomely and cruelly killed for their horn in South Africa now stands at a staggering 587. The South African government continues to intensify the fight against rhino poaching, both via more effective law enforcement using various agencies including the army, with much stiffer sentencing, and by negotiating Memoranda of Understanding with key countries to help in the fight. More....