Rhinos are big, beautiful creators that are some of the oldest land mammals in the world. There are two species of rhino in Africa – the white rhino which resides mostly in South Africa and the black rhino which lives in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Black rhinos can live up to 40 years and white rhinos can live up to 50 years, both living off of a plant based diet. Adult rhinos have no natural predators, except for humans.
Three of the five species of rhino that exist in the world are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are approximately only 5,000 black rhino and 20,400 white rhino in existence, and the African Wildlife Foundation reports that the rhino population is down 97.6% since 1960. So if humans are the rhino’s only natural predator, what is the cause for this drastic drop in the rhino population?
One of the main contributors is poaching. Rhinos are hunted and killed for their horns, which are used for medicinal purposes in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rhino horns, which are made of keratin (the same substance that hair and nails are made of), are believed to be cures for everything from cancer and diabetes to impotence and hangovers. Believed to be a miracle cure, the rhino horn sells for large amounts of money in Asia. One kilogram of rhino horn can be sold on the black market for approximately $20,000.
According to reports from the Department of Environmental Affairs Republic of South Africa, more than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in 2013 compared to only 668 in 2012. It’s safe to say that rhino poaching has reached a level of crisis and if poaching continues, rhinos could be extinct in the near future.
It’s time to put an end to poaching and to help conserve the rhino species, which have been around for millions of years. Rhinos play an important role in their habitat, and by protecting rhinos we’re also protecting the large amounts of land they live on as well as hundreds of other different types of species that live on that land.
One thing we can all do to help save the rhinos is educate ourselves and spread awareness about this issue, some great websites to visit are AWF.org and WWF.org. You can also help by supporting rhino sanctuaries and organizations that help to conserve rhinos, like Save the Rhino and International Rhino Foundation.