Wild rhinos could disappear within 10 years according to experts, as an unprecedented spike in African rhino killings by poachers has been recently documented. According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), more than 1,300 rhinos were hunted down with impunity by poachers last year, making it a record year since 2008.
Conservationists and animal experts have raised alarm against the practice, warning that the drop in the rhino population has assumed dangerous proportions. Rhino expert Craig Bruce fears African Rhinos could soon be a “thing of the past.”
“If we continue with the current rate of losses, then I would estimate that within five to 10 years, all we will have is rhinos in very strictly controlled captivity scenarios and we will basically have lost the species in the wild,”
Rhinos thrived abundantly throughout Africa and Asia with numbers nearing the 500,000 mark almost a century ago. However, owing to largely unrestrained poaching practices, their numbers have dwindled drastically, undermining the efforts of conservationists and pushing these magnificent animals ever closer to the brink of extinction.
Although the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) had banned rhino horns- trade in 1977 in an attempt to preserve their numbers, the ban was only enforced in South Africa, believed to house up to 80 percent of the world’s rhino population.
South Africa is home to the largest population of rhinos in the world and is the epicentre for rhino conservation. However, the disconcerting surge in poaching activity in the African Savannah hasn’t met with significantly lasting resistance. The continuous and unabated poaching of these animals is an active phenomenon attributable to the escalating demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, namely Vietnam and China, the former being the largest user country of rhino horn. According to reports, the rhino horn is known to carry enormous healing properties and is therefore treasured for its rareness in this regard.
All five rhino species around the world have been unanimously acknowledged as approaching extinction. With a population of less than 5,000, Africa’s black rhinos are critically endangered. The horned rhinos of India and Nepal are endangered at nearly 3,000, while the critically endangered Southeast Asia’s rhino populations have also dipped dramatically.
Among all species, the southern white rhinos, predominantly inhabiting the vast swathes of South African territory, are believed to have thrived in relatively healthy numbers with nearly 20,000 animals. However, despite their number, they continue to remain a tremendously vulnerable target for opportunistic poachers.
According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, much of the poaching occurs in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, which stretches nearly 20,000-square km (7,500-square miles). It has also confirmed that rhino deaths could soon start overtaking births between 2016 and 2018.
Rhinos belong to a group of animals called Perissodactyls. A study published in 2014 suggested that the species may have originated in India more than 50 million years ago. It is common knowledge that the Perissodactyls were the ancestors of the modern-day rhino as well as the horse. Rhinos are universally recognized by their massive size and protruding horns. The size of the horns may vary from animal to animal. Although not particularly drawn toward humans, rhinos are known to exhibit occasional bouts of unpredictable aggressiveness towards people from time to time if surprised or provoked.
According to recent statistics, a total of 200 Africa’s rhinos perished at the hands of poachers in 2010. In the same year, the numbers, although less, but equally troubling, were reported in India and Nepal with 19 and 11 Rhinos eradicated respectively. Animal conservationists now fear that one of the planet’s most extraordinary species may be doomed to extinction in the wake of a potentially catastrophic poaching menace.
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