The race to save the Rhino

At the start of the 20th century, one million black rhinos roamed the majestic landscapes of Africa. By 2001 that number had dropped to approximately 2,300. The western Black Rhino (a different subspecies) was declared extinct in 2011 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The black rhino is listed on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Critically Endangered. Poaching has reduced growth in black rhino numbers to below the usual +5% per annum target growth rate. Driven by Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and China. It is used in traditional Asian medicine, though there is no scientific evidence that horn is beneficial as a remedy. More recently, and particularly among the middle and upper classes of Vietnam, the purchase of rhino horn signifies someone’s wealth and success.

One rhino horn can fetch in excess of an incredible £200,000. Political and economic instability within African countries are driving the trade from Rhino horns. In 2018, The last male northern white rhinoceros in the world has died, leaving the sub-species perilously close to extinction. Javan rhinos, with only 58-68 individuals, are the most threatened of the five rhino species. Javan rhinos once lived throughout northeast India and Southeast Asia.

Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was poached in 2010. Poaching and illegal trafficking of rhino horn has increased sharply since 2007 and remains one of the major reasons’ black rhinos are still endangered today. Poaching is big business, and well-organised criminal gangs are now well-equipped to track and kill rhino. 

The Rhino horn trade has been banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species since 1977, yet the black-market demand for rhino horn is high.  Rhinos are vital to keeping ecosystems in balance which means by protecting rhinos, we protect other species too.