Going, Going…Gone: The Extinction of the Western Black Rhino.

We’ve all seen the BBC’s flagship series Africa (2013)  and David Attenborough having a conversation with a baby blind black rhino. Many of us have called it “cute” and “beautiful” but after learning about the threats rhinos face on a daily basis, how many of us have actually done anything to help them?

For one species, the Western Black  Rhino, help has not come in time. According the the Internacional Union for the

All rhinos need our help.  © Arianne Kenworthy 2013
All rhinos need our help.
© Arianne Kenworthy 2013

Conservation of Nature’s ‘Red List of Threatened Species’ they have now been declared officially extinct after not being seen since 2006. Stuart Hall, chairman of the ICU’s Species Survival Commission believes that despite the various campaigns created and the some conservation successes, there wasn’t enough done to help to prevent this particular great loss,

“In the case of both the Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation methods had been implemented. These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve breeding performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction.”  (http://ecowatch.com/2011/western-black-rhino-declared-extinct-on-threatened-species-list/) 

With only an estimated 29,000 rhinos left in the wild and various subspecies thought to be almost extinct, it’s time to end this.

One thing I have found when looking into rhino conservation, is the lack of advertising for these conservation projectswhen compared to others like that of the Sumatran Tiger. I’m not sure as to why this is the case but I do believe that if more people saw the pain these animals go through, then perhaps more would donate to support the projects to help end the suffering. Some people may argue against such advertising and claim that it is “too distressing” to be shown but surely in order to get across the importance of the message, people need to see the truth.  Whilst I agree that there is a time and place for adverts like this, I firmly believe that whether this is considered to be a way of guilt tripping people into donating or not, the fact is that we need to make a difference and if that is the only way to kick start it, then that’s what you have to do.

Although an increase in donations may positively contribute to creating more protection for rhinos and the prevention of habitat loss, a major factor in the loss of lives, a more prominent issue is poaching for horns and this may not be so easy to disperse. When one group of poachers are caught and reprimanded, another appears

If people saw the pain these animals go through, maybe they'd feel more inclined to help.
If people saw the pain these animals go through, maybe they’d feel more inclined to help.

somewhere else and so the endless cycle continues until eventually the animal becomes extinct. Many countries believe that the horn has medicinal benefits with traditional Chinese medicine using it for “the treatment of fever, gout, rheumatism and other disorders”(http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/rhinoceros/rhino-horn-use-fact-vs-fiction/1178/) . Whilst there is evidence to prove that this is in fact false, many poachers still use this to their advantage and sell the much coveted horn to the black market, often obtaining it from national parks and causing the animals a great deal of pain. There are methods being put into place to help reduce the devastating cost of false information from the collaboration of the South African and Vietnamese governments and DNA tracking on horns to find the poachers but as of yet the poachers just keep coming back undeterred. I believe that until we can convince people that rhino horn has no proven medicinal qualities, this problem will be ongoing.

It shocked me to find out that poachers were planning to attack rhinos in UK zoos, supposedly after finding it harder to find any in the wild after hunting them to near extinction. With their international breeding programmes and birth successes, zoos are having a really positive impact on rhino survival and so for them to lose them would be a terrible loss. I know for me, having the opportunity to see them up close and learn about their plight encouraged me to donate

I've recently adopted a rhino (with the same birthday as me) with WWF
I’ve recently adopted a rhino (with the same birthday as me) with WWF

and adopt a WWF rhino. I personally feel that providing they are well cared for, captive rhinos are vital to the survival of the species. This desperation of the hunters is proving that the extinction situation is getting increasingly worse, along with the loss of the Western Black Rhino, and highlights that more needs to be done.

It is a horrific idea to think that a species over 5 million years old is teetering on the brink of extinction but they’re not gone yet. We can still help to make a difference and continue the great conservation work going on today. In sanctuaries, Southern White Rhinos are thriving after creeping back from the ‘though to be extinct’ list to the ‘near threatened’: it’s not a success story as of yet but it’s progress and it’s something we need to apply to other species.

There is a reason I am determined to work in conservation filmmaking. Cases like these.


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