Let's Demand Safety For the Northern White Rhino
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Rhino poaching has been occurring for well over four centuries, as hunters have driven the Indian rhinoceros to near-extinction ever since the colonial era. The 19th-century concept of hunting for sport nearly eradicated the white rhino from the planet, until anti-poaching laws in India and Nepal helped the species recover to a considerable extent. "Operation Rhino," initiated in 1961, was a program designed to save the rhino from extinction. Remaining members of the species were moved to reserves in South Africa, but in 1970 it was revealed that the rhinoceros population had decreased by about 90% since historic times.
Historically the major factor in the decline of white rhinos was uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era, but now poaching for their horn is the primary threat. The white rhino is particularly vulnerable to hunting, because it is a large and relatively unaggressive animal with very poor eye sight and generally occurs in herds.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, the rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, where it is ground into a fine powder or manufactured into tablets to be used as a treatment for a variety of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers. Due to this demand, several highly organized and very profitable international poaching syndicates came into being and would carry out their poaching missions with advanced technologies ranging from night vision scopes, silenced weapons, darting equipment and even helicopters. The ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and incursions by poachers primarily coming from Sudan have further disrupted efforts to protect the few remaining northern rhinos.
In 2013, poaching rates for white rhinos nearly doubled from the previous year. As a result, the white rhino has now received Near Threatened status as its total population tops out at 20,000 members. Poaching of the animal has gone virtually unchecked in most of Africa, and the non-violent nature of the rhinoceros makes it susceptible to poaching. Mozambique, one of the four main countries the white rhino occupies, is used by poachers as a passageway to South Africa, which holds a fairly large number of white rhinos. Here, rhinos are regularly killed and their horns are smuggled out of the country. As of 2014, Mozambique labels white rhino poaching as a misdemeanor.
Even with increased anti-poaching efforts in many African countries, many poachers are still willing to risk death or prison time because of the tremendous amount of money that they stand to make. Rhino horn can fetch tens of thousands of dollars per kilogram on the black market in Asia and, depending on the exact price, can be worth more than its weight in gold. Poachers are also starting to use social media sites for obtaining information on the location of rhino in popular tourist attractions (such as Kruger National Park) by searching for geotagged photographs posted online by unsuspecting tourists. By using GPS coordinates of rhino in recent photographs, poachers are able to more easily find and kill their targets.
Modern conservation tactics
White rhinoceros in Seoul Grand Park
The Northern White Rhino is critically endangered to the point that there are only three of these rhinos remaining in the world, all in zoos. To keep peace, several conservation tactics have been taken to prevent this species from disappearing from the earth. Perhaps the most notable type of conservation these Rhinos have received is having moved to Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic on 20 December 2009, where they have been under constant watch every day, and have been given favorable climate and diet, both of which they have adapted to well, in order to boost their chances of reproducing.
In order to save the Northern White Rhino from extinction, Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced that they would introduce a fertile Southern White Rhino from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in February 2014. Here they have this rhino in an enclosure with both female Northern White Rhinos in hopes to cross-breed the subspecies. Having the male rhino with two female rhinos will increase competition for the female rhinos and in theory should result in more mating experiences. Till now Ol Pejeta Conservancy has not announced any news of the rhino mating.
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