The practice of removing large mammals, referred to as “humankind’s most pervasive influence on nature” by researchers at Stony Brook University, led to more than three Rhinoceroses being poached every day in 2013 in South Africa. South Africa also happens to be where most of the rhinos of the world call home, but rhino poaching is a world problem that we need to concern ourselves with if we don’t want this species to be lost forever. Napal has had rhino-conservation efforts for 80 years, but its rhinos are still in danger of disappearing.
The vanishing of these major mammals leaves ecologies reeling from the loss. At the 7th Trondheim Conference in Norway, Zakri Hamid, chair and founder of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystems Services, said, “We are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind.” Zakri urged the importance of biodiversity and genetic diversity again saying it [provides] “a large genetic pool that enables organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions.”
Bringing this back to rhinos, the role they play in their environment is an important one. SavetheRhino.org insists on the importance of rhinos within their ecological situation. Rhinos are called an “Umbrella Species” where conservation efforts to protect the rhino also affect all of the other species of animals that interact with, and depend on the rhino for survival. Building on this idea, a “charismatic” animal like the rhino gets more support from the public that will then be shared by all of the cohabitating species.
Today there are 28,000 rhinos in the wild. This is down from 70,000 in 1970, and that is down from over 1,000,000 in the early 1800s. The World Conservation Union classifies over half of the species of rhinos as “critically endangered.” This is the fault of humankind.
Poaching, along with pollution, logging (sometimes illegally), and other land-encroaching practices are driving these species to extinction. But there is hope for both the rhinos and the ecologies that depend on them. There are many ways to get involved from Savetherhino.org to the World Wildlife Federation; funds are being collected to help preserve this mega-herbivore for the future generations.