: In the News : White rhinos on the critical list, say conservationists
White rhinos on the critical list, say conservationists
Friday, May 21, 2004
By Astrid Zweynert, Reuters
LONDON — The northern white rhino, one of the world's most endangered animals,
could be extinct in the wild within months unless poaching by Sudanese rebels
stops, conservationists said Thursday as they launched an urgent appeal for funds.
The world's 25 or so remaining wild white rhinos all live in the Garamba National
Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site on the northern border of the Democratic
Republic of Congo with Sudan.
Kes Hillman-Smith, a coordinator of the Garamba National Park project, said poaching
had increased as Sudanese rebels said to be from the area of conflict around
Darfur hunt down the rhinos for their valuable horns and tusks.
"It is the first time they have come into Garamba," said Hillman-Smith,
London for a meeting organized by the UK Save The Rhino group. "It's a worrying
situation if the poaching continues at such an alarming rate," he said. "Unless
there is a major level of support, we are going to lose the last population of
northern white rhinos. We urgently need more funds to bring in better equipment."
The rhino numbers have dwindled from almost 500 in the late 1970s. Last week,
two park rangers were killed by a group of poachers, Hillman-Smith said.
Once out of the park, the poachers are thought to head to the southern Sudanese
town of Yambio, where traders buy ivory and rhino horn from the Congo and Central
The Garamba National Park has long been a magnet for poachers, who prey on its
rich wildlife, which also includes elephants, hippos, buffalo, and chimpanzees.
The U.N. cultural heritage body UNESCO runs a project to protect wildlife from
the effects of violence in Congo, which is struggling to emerge from a devastating
five-year regional conflict that killed at least 3 million people, mostly from
starvation and disease.
The United States has been involved in efforts to reach a peace deal between
Sudan's government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which has been
fighting for 20 years for autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist south.