The End of the Western Black #Rhinoceros

By, Joclyn Corrigan

western-black-rhino-m-brunel
Photo Credit: M. Brunel: 1977 Cameroon

Anyone that cares about animal rights can tell you the extinction rates are too high. These people could also tell you that rhinoceroses are the target of unnecessary hunting, so much that a species of rhino recently went extinct. The West African black rhinoceroses (diceros bicornis longipes) was declared extinct in 2011, due to hunting for sport, agriculture, and poaching.

One large cause of the rhino’s end was because of a belief in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pushed forward by Mao Zedong, the ruling chairman of People’s Republic of China from 1945 to 1976. TCM was to aid the poor that couldn’t afford to go to the doctor and offer easy found relief. It was believed that powdered rhino horn could reduce fever or even cure cancer, so to get the horn, they had to go out and kill the rhinos. By the end of the 90’s, almost all the western black rhinos were poached, with about 2,400 left. At this rate, they would definitely go into extinction.

It’s important to recognize why the rhinoceroses are important to the environment. Without them the ecosystem is thrown out of line. Rhinos are known as “grazers” meaning they only eat certain long grasses and low hanging trees. Rhinos are very particular about which grass they choose to consume. In only eating the long grasses this allows for short grass, that otherwise could not grow in the long grass’ shadow, to flourish and offers a diverse selection of grass to increase. It may not seem like much, but in the grand scheme this means that rhinos play a role in maintaining the entire make-up of a region where many types of grass could die off and potentially eliminate a food source for other animals.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the western black rhinoceroses that are suffering. Many animals and our ecosystem as a whole are facing severe change in the upcoming years, and not all of it is good. That is why it is important to get educated on these issues and make a change for the better.

All though it seems unlikely, there is still hope for endangered animals. There are steps being made to prosecute animal cruelty the same as a cultural or religious crime. (See: “International Prosecution of Crimes Against Culture, Environment, and Animals?”)  This is great news for animals that are hunted just for their skin, fur, or any other part of their body. It also means that if this goes through, poachers will see that they can face some serious punishment and then put an end to their ways.

5960247_orig                                                                                                                 Scientific American

(For additional information, see: “How the Black Rhino Went Extinct” and “Western Black Rhino Officially Extinct.”)

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