At one point in time, these grey giants roamed Asia, and Africa freely with no dangers or fear of poachers. They didn’t feel threatened when they saw humans, the humans feared them instead. Things have changed. The last male northern white rhino died on March 20th, leaving only two females with little hope to keep their species from extinction. While southern white rhinos recovered from near extinction due to conservation efforts, Javan and Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered with fewer than 100 animals in each. The vast majority of the total 32,000 rhinos that exist on the planet now live in a single country: South Africa.
Rhino horn trade and poaching really started booming in 2011 and has taken a horrible turn these last couple years. Rhino horns sell for big bucks. A white rhino horn can sell on the black market for as much as $3000 a pound. 2014 was one of the most horrific years for the rhino population as over 1200 of them were poached. In the past 11 years, there have been over 7100 rhinos poached for their horns. That’s an average of 656 rhinos poached per year.
Poaching is so popular and common in Asia that all rhino species have dropped dramatically, forcing the poachers to Africa where the more rhinos remain. Rhino horn is in high demand and the illegal market in Vietnam is growing as the days pass. Since the numbers are stooping too low in Asia, the poachers are now starting to move into Africa as there are many more rhinos there. As people in China and Vietnam gain more disposable income, they are buying more rhino horn, which is used in both traditional and non-traditional medicine.
Poachers cut off rhinos’ horns, leaving them in great pain and vulnerable to predators. Black and white rhinos that live in Africa have it the worst out of the rhino families. Game in the savanna is harsh and cruel with strong lions, fast cheetahs and relentless hyenas. An average rhino can run as fast as 40 miles per hour. This might seem fast to you but a pack of 5-10 cheetahs that can sprint at speeds as high as 85 miles per hour, so there’s little to no chance of them surviving without their main defence tool. A rhino without its horn is like Thor without his hammer, defenceless in the great dangers of the wilderness.
Although poaching is hands down the biggest reason why rhino numbers are dropping, the loss of their habitat has slowly been killing them as well. As the human population expands and looks for more and more places to live, we continue to encroach on animal habitats. Some of the places rhinos called home is now home to humans. This means rhinos and other species are getting closer and closer together with competing for resources to survive. There are too many animals and not enough space. The loss of habitat is taking away from their hunting spots, homes and water supply.
So what are we doing about this? Well the good news is that humans aren’t just pushing this aside and letting it happen. There has been many fundraisers all over the internet where you can contribute to help saving the rhinos. Most rhinos today are in wildlife preserves or sanctuaries to protect them from poachers. Even the rhinos that are in the African wild have soldiers protecting them from poachers and predators.
Only a about a quarter of poachers get caught. The ratio of poachers caught to rhinos poached is absolutely heartbreaking. In 2014, 1215 rhinos were poached while only 386 poachers were caught. Still, the situation has been getting better in the last couple years. In 2016 1,054 rhinos were poached while 680 were caught.
This is happening to animals all over the world and it’s happening everyday. Since 1900, almost 500 species of animals have gone extinct and most due to human activities like poaching, hunting and habitat loss. If we don’t act to stop this trend, soon there will be few wild animals left.