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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : August 2000 : Africa-at-Large; Two Species of African Rhino On The Increase

Africa-at-Large; Two Species of African Rhino On The Increase

By Panafrican News Agency
Africa News
August 7, 2000

DAKAR, Senegal (PANA) - There are currently more rhino in Africa than at any time since the early mid 1980s, says a report issued Monday by the World Conservation Union and the World Wildlife Foundation.

According to estimates issued in Gland, Switzerland, the two species of African rhinoceros, the black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the white rhino (Ceratotherium simum) continued to increase in the wild.

The estimates, prepared by IUCN's African Rhino Specialist Group, showed there were just over 13,000 African rhino in 1999 compared to 8,300 in 1992.

Most of this increase is due to the continued rapid growth in the number of southern white rhino.

The balance between white and black rhino has shifted with 79 percent of African rhino in the wild in 1999 being white rhino, compared to only 30 percent in 1984, the report says.

"Even though overall numbers are positive, there is no room for complacency, " Dr Martin Brooks, chairman of IUCN's African Rhino Specialist Group, said.

"Numbers of two of the six African rhino subspecies remain very low, and invasions of private land in Zimbabwe by war veterans and squatters currently pose a threat to several significant populations," he added.

The demand for rhino horn for traditional Chinese medicine (not as an aphrodisiac, as commonly believed) and for making decorative dagger handles in the Middle East has for decades fuelled an illegal international horn trade which has led to the poaching of thousands of rhinos.

However, intensive conservation efforts in several African countries have helped black rhino numbers increase in the wild from a low of around 2,450 in 1992 to just over 2,700 by 1999, with a further 234 black rhino in captivity world-wide.

While the continuing increase in continental black rhino numbers since 1995 is encouraging, the future of one of the four black rhino subspecies, the western black rhino, is bleak with only about 10 animals remaining scattered across northern Cameroon.

The southern white rhino, rescued from near extinction a century ago, stands as one of the world's greatest conservation success stories, up from approximately 20 in 1895 to just over 10,300 by 1999.

The report says that 94 percent of these were in South Africa while a further 721 were in captivity world-wide.

By contrast, the situation facing the other white rhino subspecies, the northern white rhino, is critical; and today only 24 to 31 exist in the wild in a single population in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Following a recent birth there are now 10 northern white rhino in captivity.

The report attributes the increase in the number of the beasts to the implementation of effective conservation strategies involving government agencies, local communities, NGOs and private landowners in countries like South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Swaziland and Tanzania.

"One of the greatest challenges facing the future of rhinos in both Africa and Asia is maintaining sufficient conservation expenditure and field effort," Brooks added.



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