Tag Archives: rhinos

The Declining Bone Health of Larger Rhinos

A rhino’s bones work very hard to support it’s size and activity. And as these mammal’s evolve and grow larger, their bones have to support more and more.

A new study from the Universities of Chicago and Oregon examined the bone health of rhinos and what changes have occurred over the species existence. The researchers found bone degradation, inflammation or infection in several rhino species, including the extinct North American and living African and Asian species.

To examine the issue further, the researchers analyzed the bone health of six extinct and one living rhino species. They looked into bone structure and total body mass changed, and how that has changed over the past 50 million years. They found that bone diseases increase dramatically from 28% to 65-80% as new species evolved. In addition, bone health decreased significantly as body mass increased.

The study’s findings may help in predicting the long-term bone health of these animals, other animals and maybe even humans.

 
 
Featured image by jumblejet / CC BY 2.0

South Africa Votes to Make Domestic Rhino Horn Trade Legal Once Again

Last year, a record 1,215 rhinos were killed in South Africa. This year’s poaching rate was ever so slightly lower, at 1,175 rhinos.

Those numbers are drastic increases from 2008, when less than 100 were killed, before the ban on the domestic rhino horn trade was enacted. And a few months ago, South Africa voted to lift that ban. But then the Minister of Environmental Affairs appealed the decision, putting the operation on hold.

The decision to lift the ban was made by South Africa’s High Court at the end of November, in an effort to decrease demand for rhino horns and save the rhinos from extinction. WWF Wildlife Trade Policy Analyst Dr. Colman O Criodain thinks differently:

“It is hard to see any positive conservation benefits from this court ruling, particularly at a time when rhino poaching figures are at record levels. There is no domestic demand for rhino horn in South Africa, so it is inconceivable that anyone would buy it – unless they intend to sell it abroad illegally or they are speculating that international trade will be legalized.”

Photo by flowcomm / CC BY 2.0
Photo by flowcomm / CC BY 2.0

While lifting the domestic trade ban would allow people to buy horns in South Africa, their purchase would still be prohibited in international trade under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Rhino Programme Manager for WWF South Africa Dr. Jo Shaw stated:

“This ruling is a blow to the government, which imposed the moratorium in 2009 in response to a sharp rise in rhino poaching and concerns that the national trade was facilitating the illegal international trade in rhino horn…Lifting the domestic moratorium can only encourage poaching and illegal activity, especially as it is likely to be misconstrued as a lifting of the current international trade ban. Efforts should rather be focused good regulation of existing private rhino horn stockpiles and increased capacity at ports of entry and exit to detect illegal wildlife products.””

Just a few weeks later, on December 8, the Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa appealed the court’s decision, as South Africa is home to 80% of the global population of rhinos. But the South African High Court dismissed the government’s application to appeal, forcing Molewa to appeal the High Court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals. The government of South Africa has not yet made it clear whether it will request at next year’s 17th CITES Conference in Johannesburg that the international trade in rhino horn resume.

Photo by Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0
Photo by Rod Waddington / CC BY-SA 2.0

Sadly, other regions in Africa are experiencing increases in rhino poaching, despite this year’s slight drop in South Africa’s numbers. At least 130 rhinos were poached in Zimbabwe and Namibia in 2015, which is nearly 200% more than 2014: 50 were poached in Zimbabwe, more than double the previous year, and 80 rhinos were poached in Namibia, up from 25 in 2014 and just 4 in 2013. These two countries, along with South Africa, account for almost 95% of remaining African rhinos.

WWF Director, Global Species Programme Carlos Drews said:

“After seven years of increases, a decline in the rate of rhino poaching in South Africa is encouraging and the result of the government’s leadership and the tireless efforts of so many committed people. However, the rate remains unacceptably high – and soaring poaching levels in Namibia and Zimbabwe are cause for serious concern”.

 
 
Featured image by Jason Wharam / CC BY-ND 2.0

Rangers Are Protecting the Last Remaining Male Northern White Rhino in the World

There are currently seven remaining Northern White Rhinos in the world. The species has been hunted to the brink of extinction by poachers, hoping to make money by selling the animal’s horns.

After losing the only other two males in 2014, there now exists just one living male Northern White Rhino. The animal, named Sudan, currently lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, 200 kilometers north of Nairobi in Kenya. Sudan moved to the conservancy from the Czech Republic Dvur Kralove Zoo on December 20th, 2009, along with three female Northern White Rhinos, Najin, Fatu and Suni.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds Najin (center), a 25-year-old female northern white rhinoceros, and her companion.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo feeds Najin (center), a 25-year-old female northern white rhinoceros, and her companion.

But the rhinos do not live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy alone. They are accompanied by a team of experienced rangers who monitor the 90,000 acres of conservation land, guarding the rhinos against dangerous poachers.

To protect these giants, the rangers work with local law enforcement agencies and use GPS trackers, radio houses, surveillance aircrafts and dogs trained to detect humans and security breaches.

Two rangers patrol the conservancy on foot and point out a human footprint.
Two rangers patrol the conservancy on foot and point out a human footprint.

A computer screen showing GPS-tracked anti-poaching patrol units is monitored by a radio operator in the radio room at Ol Pejeta.
A computer screen showing GPS-tracked anti-poaching patrol units is monitored by a radio operator in the radio room at Ol Pejeta.

The rhino horn black market is extremely lucrative. One horn can bring in more than $75,000 per kilogram or 2.2 pounds, which is the reason poachers have nearly wiped out the entire species.

These four rhinos were moved to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy to provide the most favorable breeding conditions, in the hopes of bringing the species back from the edge of extinction. It’s believed that the climate, diet and security of the conservancy gives them the best chance for repopulation.

Conservationists and scientists are also considering artificial insemination or cross-breeding the females with similar rhino sub-species and then breeding the next generation back into pure Northern White Rhinos.

Last remaining male Northern White Rhino named Sudan feeding at Ol Pejeta.
Last remaining male Northern White Rhino named Sudan feeding at Ol Pejeta.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo with female rhino Najin.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo with female rhino Najin.

Rangers preparing to patrol at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Rangers preparing to patrol at Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Rangers go into a radio room while patrolling Ol Pejeta Conservancy.Rangers go into a radio room while patrolling Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo gesturing to a southern white rhino.
Ranger and caretaker Mohammed Doyo gesturing to a southern white rhino.

A giraffe walks in the distance at Ol Pejeta Conservancy as a ranger patrols on foot.
A giraffe walks in the distance at Ol Pejeta Conservancy as a ranger patrols on foot.

Image credits: Dai Kurokawa/European Press Agency