Black rhinos are a species of rhino found primarily in southern and eastern Africa. They are critically endangered, with just over 5,500 individuals left both in captivity and in the wild. If a species is endangered, it is at risk of disappearing from the wild.
Why are black rhinos endangered?
Black rhinos are killed by poachers because of their horns. These horns can be sold on the black market for high prices. This encourages poachers to hunt them. These rhino horns are often used in traditional medicines, even though there is no evidence of their medical properties.
Large spaces are increasingly being used for farming in Africa. This means that there are fewer connected spaces available for rhinos to live in. This makes it difficult for rhinos to find suitable habitats.The lack of corridors between habitats also makes it difficult for breeding across populations to take place.
What improvements have been made?
There have been increased efforts by governments in Africa, such as those in Kenya and Tanzania, to enforce laws around poaching. This has resulted in stronger measures against poaching gangs. These measures include increasing the maximum fines given to those that are caught poaching. As a result, the number of rhinos being killed by poachers has decreased significantly. While in 2015, 1,349 rhinos were killed, in 2018 only 892 were killed.
Some rhinos from existing populations have also been moved to new locations. This is known as increasing the ‘species distribution.’ Doing this allows a species to live in different areas,
even if ‘corridors’ of land have been blocked by agriculture. This means that more herds of rhinos can develop, increasing the survival chances of the species.
Over the last 6 years, there has been an increase in the number of black rhinos. In 2012, there were 4,845 rhinos both in the wild and in captivity. In 2018, 5,630 rhinos were recorded. Experts expect the number of black rhinos to continue to rise.
What issues may rhino conservation face in the future?
One problem that may arise is a reduction in tourism, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This makes it harder for conservation efforts such as national parks to be financed. This is because national parks rely heavily on tourism to remain open. Although poaching measures have been made harsher, it can still be difficult for officials to catch poachers. Increasing agriculture is also making it difficult for rhino populations to expand, as they have less space to live in.
In South Africa, the government has decided to allow more black rhinos to be killed for trophy hunting. The government has justified this decision by stating that money earned through this will be used to support conservation efforts. However, this could slow the rate of population growth, as more rhinos will be killed. There is still work to be done to make sure that the black rhino can stop being an endangered species.