They used to roam freely in large numbers, but will rhinos be extinct soon? The sobering reality is that, yes, the rhino could become extinct soon if we don’t step in to fight against the poaching war. As part of our Rhinos Saving Rhinos Fundraising Campaign, we take a closer look at the real threat of rhino extinction.
The Rhino Species
Not everyone knows that the rhino is not just one species. In fact, there are a total of five existant rhino species in the world, namely the black rhino, white rhino, greater one-horned rhino, Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino.
In Africa specifically, you’ll only find the black and white rhino in the wild. And before you assume that the one is black and the one white, they’re actually not. Both rhinos are grey in colour. However, their key distinguishing features include that the white rhino is a lot larger than the black rhino. The white rhino is also square-lipped, whereas the black rhino is hook-lipped.
These differentiating features are not all for aesthetics either. The black rhino’s hooked or pointed lip assists it as a browser, enabling it to grab onto trees to eat the leaves, shoots and branches. On the other hand, the white rhino’s flat, squared lips assist it as a grazer. You can just think of its lips as a non-motorised lawn mower, biting off the grass as it grazes.
Then vs Now: The Rhino’s Dire Demise
We can trace rhinos' existence back millions of years ago to the Miocene era. In fact, they’re one of the oldest mammals! They’re also the second-largest land mammal after the African elephant. Back then, they were grazing peacefully throughout many areas in Africa as well as Europe and Asia.
But, suddenly, something started to shift. They were no longer the gentle herbivores that could go about their own business undisturbed. Humans declared war on them for one small part of their anatomy – their horn.
There are several reasons why rhinos are poached for their horns. However, the biggest one is the misconception around the medicinal value of the horn, particularly in Asian countries.
The Stats of the Matter
Rhino population numbers continue to drop dramatically. For example, in the early 20th Century, there were around 500,000 rhinos in Africa and Asia. However, by 1970, this number decreased to only 70,000!
It did not stop there, and this number continues to plummet. Today, there are a mere 27,000 rhinos left in the wild and very few rhinos survive when they're not in national parks and reserves where we can try to protect them.
This shocking decrease in the rhino population results from gradual habitat loss over decades but, most prominently, is due to rhino poaching.
The white rhino is currently listed as near threatened whereas the black rhino is critically endangered,
Why Rhinos Matter
Our rhinos in Africa are not just here for us to marvel at their majestic unicorn-like physiques. They are also not only a special link to our history as one of the oldest mammals, but they also play an essential role in the environment.
Because they are grazers and browsers, they are also like our landscape architects of the bush, shaping our land, which benefits other wildlife species and brings balance to our ecosystem.
In the safari industry, people travel far and wide to catch a glimpse of these almost dinosaur-like creatures, and this tourism, in turn, also helps uplift our African countries and local communities.
So, Why Will Rhinos Be Extinct Soon?
The reality is that the average rhino death rate has risen to around 100 rhinos per month. In South Africa alone, the country with the biggest rhino population on the continent, more than one rhino is killed per day. And over the past decade, South Africa's rhino population has decreased by 70%.
South African National Parks (SANParks) stated in its 2019-2020 annual report that there are reportedly only 3,549 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos left in the Kruger National Park.
Although these statistics paint a dire picture and point toward the reality that rhinos could be extinct soon, it’s not all doom and gloom.
The truth is that the rhino does not have any natural enemies in the wild. Their only real enemy is us. As humans, we’re the only species directly driving rhinos to extinction. However, on the other hand, we’re also the only ones who can save them. This juxtaposed reality should drive us to all contribute what we can to be on the good side of the human race. The side who will do our bit to protect the species, however small we think it might be.
Will rhinos be extinct soon? Not if we can help it. At Rhino Africa, we'll continue to fight for our namesake's future in every way we can.
Make a Difference and Help Save the Rhino
Several organisations like our Impact Partner Wildlife ACT are working tirelessly on the ground to protect the rhino and other vulnerable species. Of course, to do this relentless work requires funds.
As you can imagine, relocating rhinos to where they can thrive, dehorning rhinos as a last resort, tracking them around the clock, and having anti-poaching teams on guard takes a lot of energy, time and resources.
Even if you’re far away from Africa, you can still make a difference. Every contribution helps! Also, for every $100 you donate to our Rhino Saving Rhinos fundraiser, you’re also entered into a draw where you stand a chance to win one of three luxury African trips, two of which include rhino conversation experiences. It’s a win-win! Thank you for making a difference and doing your bit to help that rhinos don't go extinct soon.
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Featured Image Credit: Marc-Quireyns
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