Saving the African rhinoceros population from extinction has become increasingly prevalent and increasingly important over the past few years. And it’s something that we at Luxury Safaris feel very strongly about. In the early 20th century, Africa and Asia were home to over 500,000 rhinos. By 1970, this number had been brought down to 70,000 as a result of mankind’s influence, and today the numbers are even more frightful.
Of the 1970 population, 65,000 were black rhino, distinguishable by their smaller size and pointed lip for browsing, and only 5,000 were the slightly larger, square-lipped white rhino. Over the next 23 years the black rhino population was decimated by 96% by hunting and poaching, with only 2,475 recorded in 1973. After serious conservation work, the population currently stands at 5,000 and is still critically endangered. The white rhino, by comparison, has grown from less than 100 in 1895 to 20,000 today through successful conservation and protection efforts. However, the northern white rhino (once found in southern Chad, the Central African Republic, south-western Sudan, northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and north-western Uganda) dropped from 2,000 in 1960 to being extinct in the wild today. To date, only three northern white rhino remain in captivity.
For a full breakdown of rhino population history, and the crisis we face, visit the International Rhino Foundation interactive webpage.
Fortunately, the dwindling rhino population was noticed before it became too late and multiple organisations and activist groups took action to help conserve one of Africa’s most majestic and peaceful beasts. Today there are dozens of conservancy groups or organisations, all around the world, offering everything from protection services to rhino orphanages. Some large corporates and well known individuals even donate regularly or help create awareness to aid the cause. This alone is the reason that rhinos still exist today, and gives one hope and faith in humanity. There are even rhino conservation awards that honour the organisations and individuals that spend and risk their lives to protect the rhino. However, there is still a major struggle against poaching, which constantly threatens the status of the rhino population.
Many people know that rhino are poached for their horn, worth a fortune on the black market, most of which is sold into Asia. However, many believe that it is sold and used as a cure for impotency, an aphrodisiac or libido enhancement substance. This is a myth, and one that has perpetuated for years. The horn is used as a cure-all medicine, believed to help with anything from the common cold to cancer (and, yes, occasionally impotence), which is why it’s such high demand. This of course seems ridiculous to anyone educated enough to know that rhino horn is made almost entirely of keratin – the same substance found in human hair and fingernails. Many activist groups and celebrities have even mailed fingernail and toenail clippings to embassies or used nail-biting as an awareness campaign (as Sir Richard Branson did, or these Chinese celebrities).
Nonetheless, the demand for rhino horn has remained somewhat unchanged and poaching still increases year-on-year. The crisis persists, and unfortunately the sustainability of an entire species hangs in the balance.
If you would like to help swing the tide, look into rhino conservation and donate to (or join) an organisation of your choice, such as WWF, Stop Rhino Poaching or Save the Rhino. Alternatively, you’re welcome to get in touch with us, and we’ll happily point you in the right direction.