WORLD RHINO DAY: Celebrating an endangered species

by Lulutho Skeyi

World Rhino Day has been celebrated internationally and annually on September 22. This day; celebrated yesterday; was a day of raising awareness for the five different rhino species and the efforts being put to rescue and conserve them. World Rhino Day has been celebrated since 2011; this year is the 10th anniversary!

Rhinoceroses are large, herbivorous mammals (warm-blooded animal that feeds on plants and grasses); they are identified by their distinctive feature being their horned snouts. A rhinos’ lifespan is roughly 40-50 years, 35-45 years and 35-50 years depending on which type of rhino species they belong to. There are five rhino species surviving today and several sub-species within these groups; some have two horns while others have one.

The different types of rhinos which exist are the Black rhino, the Javan, Sumatran, White Rhino and the Greater One-Horned Rhino.

Rhinos are vulnerable and endangered species in the world as their biggest threat is poaching. Rhino poaching is the illegal act of slaughtering rhinos. Rhinos are hunted or their horns; where the major Rhino horn demand is in Asia. These horns are used for decorative carvings and traditional medicine. The rhino horns are made of Keratin which is a protein found in hair and fingernails. These horns are falsely said to help treat everything from cancer to gout when consumed in its powder form. There are no proven medicinal benefits in humans from consuming or using the rhino powder form.

Habitat loss is another threat to the population of Rhinos due to land cleared for agricultural; industrial and settlement use as the space for Rhinos to graze and inhabit in becomes decreased and limited.  If rhino populations are separated; chances of successful breeding and recovery will further decrease.

The two remaining rhino species found in Africa are the Black Rhino which is “critically endangered” with only around 5,000 remaining in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and Kenya. Numbers of Black rhino dropped by a staggering 96% between 1970 and 1995 but due to rhino conservation efforts, their numbers are now rising.

White Rhinos are classified as ”‘near threatened”. There are now around 20,000 living across Africa, yet the increase in poaching levels is once again threatening these populations.

It has been said that successful rhino conservation requires a comprehensive approach that brings together the world’s leading expects to develop global strategies to save and recover the rhino species. Rhino populations are secured and protected through translocations which is the process of moving the rhinos from parks with significant populations, to other parks that historically had rhinos but do not.

There are alternative ways that people can follow to help to protect rhinos in their natural habitat and to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to see rhinos in the wild. Adopting a rhino is another way to assist in caring for rhino including baby orphans, training anti-poaching dogs and sponsoring the work of South Africa’s anti-poaching unit. Donations are another way to assist in helping conserve the rhino. Donated funds

directly contribute projects that help care for orphaned rhinos, support anti-poaching patrols, help monitor growth of black and white rhino populations, which simultaneously provides a sustainable future for all species of rhino.

“The only way to save a rhinoceros is to save the environment in which it lives, because there’s a mutual dependency between it and millions of other species of both animals and plants” said Indane Divisional Office.

In South Africa; rhinos can be found at Addo Elephant Park; Kruger National Park; Greater Kruger area (Mala Mala, Sabi, Sabi, Timbavati, Londolozi, Singita, Ngala, Makalali); Pilanesberg National Park, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve and Shamwari Private Game Reserve to name a few.

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