The Western Black Rhino is extinct. You can still help remaining rhinos.

westrn black rhino

IUCN photo by Richard Emsle

Western Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) has officially been declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The last extensive survey of possible rhino range in the last known range state, Cameroon in 2006, failed to find any rhino or signs of rhino (dung, spoor or signs of feeding) but did find evidence of widespread wildlife poaching and local rhino monitors faking rhino spoor in the absence of any surviving rhino. There have not been any reports of any sightings or signs since 2006. Given the wildlife poaching taking place, lack of political will and conservation effort by Cameroon conservation authorities in the past, and increasing illegal demand for rhino horn and associated increased commercial rhino poaching in other range states, it is highly probable that this subspecies is now extinct.

Thankfully, not all Black Rhinos are extinct.  There are three remaining subspecies, the South-Western (D. b. bicornis), the Eastern (D. b. michaeli), and the South-Central (D. b. minor.)  Efforts to preserve the estimated 5,000 remaining wild black rhinos are underway.

A rhino is airlifted to safety, still from a WWF/CNN video

A rhino is airlifted to safety, still from a WWF/CNN video

For uplifting news, watch helicopters airlift rhinos  in South Africa, where they are moved to the safety of parks. One lucky group of 19 endangered black rhinos  got off to a flying start for a lifetime journey, from the Eastern Cape to a new home 932 miles (1,500km) away in Limpopo province.

Saving rhinos, one at a time, in South Africa, a WWF project

Jacques Flamand, WWF

“This is the kindest way we’ve yet discovered to move a rhino from the field to a vehicle,” says Jacques Flamand, who leads this project.

April 3, 2012 photo by REX, theDailyMirror,

Gentle landings for the sedated rhinos.

“This new procedure is gentler on the darted rhino because it shortens the time it has to be kept asleep with drugs, the respiration is not as compromised as it can be in a net, and it avoids the need for travel in a crate over terrible tracks,” Jacques Flamand told the DailyMirror in April 2012.

Saving rhinos in South Africa

Saving rhinos in South Africa

We need to move lots of animals in a really short time, adds South African National Parks tech Cathy Dreyer. South Africa has a large population of rhinos and attracts poachers.  This year, 825 rhino had been poached up to November 2013, compared to 668 for all of last year. Rhino horn may fetch over $30,000 per pound on Asian markets.

Other conservation efforts raise eyebrows:  a Texas safari club plans to raise money for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to hunt and kill one in Namibia.

Farming rhinos and regulating trade have been considered, but experts  like Dr. Ronald Orenstein argue that farming would not effectively protect the rhinos.

How can you help?

Adopt a rhino from the South African National Parks

“Adopt, so our rhinos don’t die,” the tagline says.

With over 2 Rhino per day having been poached for their horns this year, the last remaining 17 000 Rhinos left in Africa will soon be extinct. SANParks is the custodian of 80% of Africa’s Rhino and home to 91% of the world Rhino population.

Campaign with the World Wildlife Fund

“The truth is none of our conservation achievements – helping to save endangered wildlife, habitats and communities around the world – would be possible without you.” The WWF website lists many ways in which you can contribute and support projects such as the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.  There’s the RhinoRaid game and app available for $1.

WWF mobile gaming app


Spread the word: rhino horn has no medicinal benefits.

Although rhino horn has no medicinal effects on humans, myths and superstitions about rhino horn still persist. In China and Vietnam, rhino horn is unfortunately promoted as a “remedy” for nearly everything, from fever to cancer – and even devil possession. The cultural myths surrounding rhino horn are why rhinos are slaughtered illegally – and why wild rhino populations in Africa and Asia remain under threat.

For reference, check out Rhishja Cota-Larson’s article Rhino horn: All myth, no medicine  in National Geographic:

Scientific analysis has confirmed that the notion of rhino horn as a “medicine” is nothing more than a myth–yet millions of people still persist in believing that rhino horn is a remedy. Is this simply because rhino horn consumers do not have access to accurate information? Or has the rhino horn “business” become so profitable that belief in the curative properties of rhino horn is actually encouraged?

Support accredited zoos

Many zoos have adequate animal keeping facilities (let’s hope that bare small cages are gone forever) and participate in the Species Survival Plan.

The mission of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan®  is to cooperatively manage specific, and typically threatened or endangered, species population within AZA-accredited Zoos and AquariumsCertified Related Facilities, and Approved Non-Member Participants. There are currently more than 500 SSP Programs, each managed by their corresponding Taxon Advisory Groups.

The Black Rhinoceros group manages over 115 rhinos in 37 institutions, for instance Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo. Also in Chicago, Lincoln Zoo welcomed an Eastern black rhinoceros calf on August 26.

Species Survival Plan, black rhino calf, Lincoln Park Zoo

Baby Eastern Black Rhino born in Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Aug. 26, 2013