|A rhino horn (left) and a mother white rhinoceros with calf (right)|
The National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit of South Africa has recently reported that 1,215 rhinos were poached in the country last year. This disturbing figure is double the number that were heavily poached in South Africa three years ago, and it has risen to a shocking 9,000 percent in only seven years. Nowadays, there are less than 30,000 rhinos remaining in the wild and there are concerns that they will be annihilated from this planet by 2026 if the illegal and bloodthirsty slaughter continues at a speedy rate. An international wildlife charity called Save The Rhino indicated that the growing demand for rhinos' horns in Asia has led to 2014 being the "worst poaching year on record." The official statistics of rhino poaching for 2014 are hoped to be released this month by South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), but the number which the National Wildlife Crime Reaction Unit has already documented shows that more rhinos are being slaughtered year after year. For example, in 2010, a total of 333 rhinos were massacred in South Africa and that figure increased to 448 in 2011. In 2012, a total of 668 rhinos were slaughtered and in 2013, a disastrous 1,004 rhinos fell victim to poaching. According to Katherine Ellis of Save The Rhino, the major factor that has contributed to the rise in rhino deaths is the increasing demand for their horns, especially in Vietnam, where the horns are used in traditional medicine.
|A white rhinoceros grazing|
Although there are essential moves underway such as efforts to foil poachers and conservation programs to help protect rhinos from both natural and unnatural danger, Save The Rhino emphasized that attitudes need to be changed through awareness movements in order to diminish the demand for rhino horn. Ms. Ellis indicated that a wide variety of strategies are required, which include well-trained and outfitted anti-poaching units on the ground, community conservation programs to guarantee that local people receive benefits from wildlife, heightened law enforcement efforts, and government action at an international level. She further added that pressure is especially needed on Mozambique, where most of the rhino poachers come from and it is also crucial to continue work to lessen the demand for rhino horns through behavior change and awareness movements in countries of Asia, especially Vietnam. In other efforts to protect the rhinos, current figures from the DEA indicated that more people are being detained in affiliation with rhino poaching than ever before. For example, approximately 367 people were arrested in connection to rhino poaching last year compared to 343 in 2013 and 267 in 2012.
|White rhinoceros browsing|
Out of roughly 29,000 rhinos remaining in the world, over 20,000 of these - particularly the white rhinoceros, of which there are 20,045 remaining - are found in southern Africa. In addition, there are also some 5,000 black rhinos left on the continent. However, two of the three species of Asian rhinos, which include the Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino are critically endangered. Furthermore, there are supposed 3,333 Indian rhinos in India and Nepal but their numbers stay threatened by increased risks of poaching. Other threats to Asia's rhinos include loss of habitat and challenges when breeding due to low levels of populations. This is especially seen in the case of Javan rhinos which number approximately 50 to 58 animals surviving in a hidden population in Indonesia and Sumatran rhinos with less than 100 individuals surviving on the island of Sumatra and the state of Sabah in Malaysia.
|A black rhinoceros; there are roughly 5,000 of these rhinos left in the wild|
When is the world ever going to wake up and realize that the global population of rhinos has been and continues to be in jeopardy with the growing demand of the animals' horns fueling the bloodthirsty slaughter of hundreds of these majestic creatures in Africa and Asia? Statistics have shown that Africa's rhino population continues to decline year after year due to poaching and, combined with the threats affecting Asia's rhinos, the global rhino population could become extinct in over a ten-year period. It is highly essential that attitudes need to be changed through awareness campaigns to reduce the demand of rhino horns. That is, pressure needs to be put on countries such as Vietnam where the demand remains high and Mozambique where majority of rhino poachers come from. Furthermore, governments from these two countries and other countries that house remaining wild rhino populations need to take serious action on an international level to combat rhino poaching and reduce the demand of rhino horns by any means necessary. Otherwise, they would risk losing their rhinos to poaching which would tremendously affect their countries' socio-economic development. This is especially true in the case of African countries, where tourism contributes to the countries' economies. In other words, poaching does not only affect the wildlife but also has a negative impact on a country's economy. Without rhinos, the wildlife tourism in Africa would greatly fluctuate. Furthermore, Javan and Sumatran rhinos continue to face habitat loss and challenges of breeding because of low numbers in populations. It is extremely crucial to save these rhinos through intense captive breeding and reintroduction efforts, along with identifying crucial habitats where these animals have been reported through the use of camera traps. When such areas have been identified, they should be fully guarded against poaching and habitat destruction.
|A rare glimpse of the Javan rhinoceros; it is believed that between 50 and 58 of these rhinos remaining in the wild|
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