White rhinos. Picture: HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTRE
White rhinos. Picture: HOEDSPRUIT ENDANGERED SPECIES CENTRE

Two of the world’s five rhinoceros species “could be lost in our lifetime”, Susie Ellis‚ executive director of the International Rhino Foundation, has said.

“Rhinos across the globe are threatened by rampant poaching to feed illegal markets‚ by habitat loss‚ and by other factors ranging from inbreeding to invasive species,” Ellis said.

In Africa‚ criminals killed nearly 900 rhinos last year‚ the foundation said.

While this is a decrease from 3.7 rhinos lost per day in 2015‚ 2.4 rhinos were killed per day in 2018 — or one every 10 hours.

White rhinos‚ which number 18‚000‚ have been most heavily affected by poaching over the past two years. The species is more susceptible to poaching‚ largely because it generally lives in more open areas where it is easier to target.

“Africa’s other rhino species‚ the black rhino‚ is slowly coming back from horrendous losses‚” the foundation said. By 1993‚ fewer than 2‚300 black rhinos remained from populations numbering more than 65‚000 in the 1970s. Nowadays‚ black rhino numbers hover at about 5‚500 animals.

Poaching remains a threat.

“The declines would have been far larger if not for the enormous protection efforts by governments and conservationists in Africa‚” Ellis said.

In Asia‚ strict protection by government authorities in India and Nepal has resulted in remarkable conservation successes for the greater one-horned‚ or Indian‚ rhino that has rebounded from fewer than 100 individuals to more than 3‚600‚ the foundation said.

In Indonesia however‚ fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain.

“The species is likely now the most endangered large mammal on Earth‚ with declines of more than 70% in the past 20 years.” And Javan rhinos‚ numbering no more than 68 animals‚ are found only in one national park in Indonesia.

The foundation recommends that rhino conservation for all five species incorporates bolstering antipoaching activities or “boots on the ground”‚ intensive monitoring and active management of wild populations‚ as well as commitments to international treaties to foster more effective international collaboration to combat the entire criminal supply chain‚ particularly in Asia.

TMG Digital