A rare subspecies of rhinoceros found mostly in West Africa has been listed as critically endangered by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) since 1996. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has detailed how extensive land surveys over several years has produced no evidence of the black rhino, nor sightings or signs of its existence in their usual habitat.
Despite countries like South Africa being able to stabilise rhino poaching levels, in other parts of Africa the campaign has not been as successful and the rate of decline suggests that any efforts could be too late for intervention. The IUCN reports that of the three remaining ecotypes of the black rhino one has recently been declared extinct in Northern Cameroon. It’s believed that total numbers of the species in down to just over 5,000.
Political instability and warring in Africa, particularly in Angola, Rwanda, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Sudan, has put a halt or compromised the conservation works being done in the region to ensure numbers don’t drop further. Even in recent years on average around 1,200 black rhinos are killed, for their horns primarily, meaning that the species has less than 5 years left. In captivity, it is estimated that there are less than 300 black rhinos held in zoos for zoo-based breeding programs.
Black rhino are poached for their horns used in Chinese medicine and for ornamental carving; IUCN reports that there has been an upsurge in poaching which coincides with “new use…to supposedly treat cancer (a non-traditional use) and one for which there is no supporting clinical evidence of its effectiveness.”
The fight continues with projects like the black rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP), established in 2003, a public and private partnership that transports rhinos to protected areas owned by private landowners to facilitate safe breeding.
All rhino are at risk as the Save The Rhino conservation program outlines in the map of the latest known figures.
Data from the IUCN show areas of population, extinction and high risk of extinction:
Angola (Angola); Kenya; Mozambique; Namibia; South Africa; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zimbabwe
Cameroon; Chad; Rwanda
Botswana; Malawi; Swaziland; Zambia
For more information on programs to conserve Rhino populations visit www.savetherhino.org