In the last five years commercial poaching of rhino has escalated to unsustainable levels. Poachers are killing black and white rhino at a rapid rate all in an effort to sell the horn illegally on the black market.
Rhino horn is composed primarily of keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. In many eastern countries the rhino horn is sought after on the black market as cultural medicine for reducing fevers, curing hangovers as well as a status symbol with the growing middle and upper class. There is no scientific evidence that the claims for the benefits of rhino horn as a medical cure are true. These uses for rhino horn are simply the demand spawned by inaccuracy about uses and benefits.
Unfortunately, the rhino are the ones that suffer in the end. Currently the IUCN lists the Black Rhino as critically endangered and the White Rhino as Near Threatened. Today there are less than 25,000 black and white rhino remaining. Black rhino numbers are down to about 5,000.
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Conservation of Rhino in Zimbabwe
More than 2,200 black and white rhino once roamed Zimbabwe in 1999, but in the following 15 years, poaching for rhino horn was rampant and rhino population plummeted to an estimated 766 individuals. With a recent increase in security measures and anti-poaching patrols, rhino can now only be found mainly on private estate and protected wildlife areas in Zimbabwe. Although the poaching rate of rhino in Zimbabwe has decreased, the population is still suffering and rhino have become locally extinct in many regions across Zimbabwe. If we are to conserve what is left of our rhino population in Zimbabwe we need to protect, manage and grow these isolated populations.
In 2014 there were estimated to be only 766 rhino surviving in the wild in Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Veterinarian, Dr. Chris Foggin is involved with immobilizing and translocating rhino across Zimbabwe and other neighboring countries, to assist local stakeholders in repopulating areas where rhino have become regionally extinct. The Trust also immobilizes rhino to improve anti-poaching measures and to remove wire snares. The Trust takes samples from every rhino that is immobilized, so that the general health of each individual can be assessed and DNA can be extracted to use in our rhino genetics project.
Over the years many rhino have been translocated to different areas within Zimbabwe. Some rhino were initially from other countries and so have different genetics. This project analyzes genetics of rhino across Zimbabwe and provides us with a broad picture as to the overall genetic diversity of each population of rhino in protected areas. This assists the local authorities in making management decisions as to which animals they might want to move to other areas in an effort to increase genetic variability.
If you would like to help us conserve what is left of our magnificent rhino population, you can do so by donating to help cover the costs of immobilization of rhino and banking of DNA. *Each rhino immobilization costs us approximately USD $400 in drugs and equipment.