At the turn of the 19th century, about 1,000,000 rhinos lived on the planet. By 1970, there were only 70,000 of these magnificent creatures left. Currently, only 28,000 rhinos live in the wild, while three of the five rhino species are critically endangered. The southern white rhinoceros is classified by the World Conservation Union as a “nearly threatened” category, and the larger unicorn rhinoceros is considered “vulnerable." Both should be considered at risk of extinction.
Rhinos have been an important part of a wide range of ecosystems for millions of years. It was primarily people themselves who caused the drastic decline noted above. Illegal logging and pollution continue to destroy the habitats of rhinos. Additionally, poachers receive huge sums for rhinos, which are destroyed primarily for their horns. This distinctive feature of rhinos is then often used in Chinese traditional medicine.
It is important to keep in mind that rhinos are an umbrella species. This means that in protecting and managing the rhino population, scientists take into account all of the other species that interact with the rhino. Thus, in preserving and protecting their native habitat, not only are rhinos protected, but also many other species that interact with them--mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, insects, and plants.
Protecting and managing the rhino population is a real challenge that requires a great deal of funding and manpower. Countries with rhinoceros populations need both financial support and the means to share expertise and exchange views.
Unfortunately, many to this day are unaware that rhinos are critically endangered. If people don’t know about these amazing animals and the problems they face, how can we expect both individuals and organizations to want to do something to save them? This is why there is a need for ongoing research and observation, as well as awareness-raising actions to stimulate donations.
If you would like to become involved in rescuing or supporting an endangered species, visit the following websites: Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust www.durrell.org or Save The Rhino Foundation www.savetherhino.org