The Endangered Black Rhino
With an increase in poaching and the drastic decrease of the Rhino population in Africa and Asia, the species is more than ever threatened of extinction. Protection and conservation initiatives are underway in Namibia to benefit the animal and the local communities.
For several decades, Rhino’s have been poached for their horns. Composed of keratin, just like human nails, these horns are often associated with traditional Chinese medicine. There was a sudden increase in the demand for Rhino horn in the mid 2000’s when a rumour submerged of it curing a Vietnamese politician’s cancer. The rumour spread rapidly and the price of rhino horn surged, hitting a record high of more than $60,000 a kilogramme. Since then, the demand continues to increase. The Rhino horn is not only seeked for its supposed miraculous medical power but also as a symbol of wealth. The higher the cost of the product, the more elite one may seem to be by simply having some, or even offering it to friends.
Looking back at 2007, there were 13 Rhino’s that were poached in South Africa. A few years later, in this same country, 1,215 Rhino’s were poached. This explosion of poaching incidents has not solely hit South Africa but also Kenya, Zimbabwe and of course Namibia. Today, the Black Rhino is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as critically endangered. There have been many different efforts done to try to protect the rhino from being poached however the rhino continues to be endangered of extinction globally. From having patrollers 24/7 around the animals to dying the horn certain colours to make it worthless.
While travelling to Tanzania, we visited 4 different National parks in hope of seeing the famous “Big five”. During our time, we saw 4 out of the 5 and countless other species. The only animal we did not see, was a rhino. When asking the local habitants, some national park rangers and Tanzanian hotel staff about this they always explained the same thing. Most of the rhino population has disappeared in these parks, where rhino’s were once abundant. In 2014, the number of rhino’s dropped to only 35 in all of Tanzania. When we asked why and how this was even possible, they explained that local villagers would be hired to poach a rhino and thus, receive a large sum of money to feed their families and the community. We did however notice many park rangers patrolling, night and day, and we were told they had drones to patrol the remaining rhinos.
Namibia has taken a different approach for the protection of this majestic species and has involved and educated the local communities about the importance of conservation. The Namibian Nature Foundation had a very proactive approach for the protection of the rhino, the more people are invested (through education, jobs and revenue, and involvement) the more people will feel an attachement to the cause. In the north-west part of Namibia, this seems to be working quite well through their rhino ranger program and plans for sustainable tourism regarding the animal. The local communities are not only helping with conservation but are also benefiting. Sustainable tourism depends not only on conservation but involving the local communities instead of just big companies.
From what we learnt, thanks to the many conservation efforts in Namibia, the number of Rhinoceros has had a tendency to stabilize, or even increase in some areas, thus preserving the chances of survival for this species. We hope that many other countries, communities and companies will take the same proactive approach as the NNF and promote sustainable tourism through conservation of species and the local ecosystem while also benefiting and involving the local communities.