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June 2012
Contents / home
Hornbills get taste of the wild
International Year of the Rhino
DIY: Build a bat box
Holiday courses
Biodiversity Youth Symposium
Community produce animal food
Debunking myths around owls
Air Force knee deep in mud!
NZG display draws crowds
Solving wildebeest dilemma
Tick-borne disease mystery
Inspiring aspirant vets
ZooClub in scientific mode
Science going places
Talkin' about takins
Conservation Grapevine

2012 marks the start of the International Year of the Rhino

  White Rhino with calf.
Photo © Lowveld Rhino Trust
  Black Rhinoceros.
  Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
Photo © International Rhino Foundation (IRF) - Bill Konstant
  Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis).
Photo © International Rhino Foundation - Susie Ellis
  EXTINCT: The Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros of Vietnam (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus).
Increasing alarm for the fate of the two rarest rhinoceros species on the planet, and growing concern over the increased illegal hunting of rhinos and demand for rhino horn affecting all five species, has prompted President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia to declare 5 June 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino.

President Yudhoyono took this step at the request of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and other conservation organisations, because the future survival of both the Javan and Sumatran rhinos depends on effective conservation action in Indonesia.

In the last decade, two rhino subspecies, the Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam have become extinct.

Today, the populations of two more subspecies, the Northern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the mainland population of the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus), both listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red Data List of Threatened Species, are perilously close to extinction because of an increase in illegal hunting and non-traditional use of rhino horn.

The urgent measures needed to ensure the effective conservation of the world's five rhino species will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6 to 15 September 2012.

The International Year of the Rhino has been welcomed in South Africa, where poaching continues unabated, with more than 230 rhinos killed to date this year. The 232 rhinos killed thus far this year do not include pseudo-hunts, approximately 100 additional rhino poached. What is disturbing is that it is projected that within about three to four years the numbers of animals poached in South Africa will exceed the growth rate of the population, leading to negative growth.

The National Zoo welcomes the announcement

Dr Abeda Dawood, Manager of the Conservation & Collections department of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa welcomed the announcement. She stated that the crisis in poaching of Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum) and Southern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis minor) in South Africa means that all role players including zoos must collaborate to save these species through cooperative species management programmes which include both ex situ and in situ conservation.

Dr Dawood remarked that the NZG has shown its commitment to saving these two species by:

  • Participating in the SA Government rhino conservation meeting held on 13 May 2012. This meeting included role players such as zoos, provinces, and private rhino associations.
  • Actively contributing to rhino conservation by having a secure breeding herd of Southern White Rhino at one of its Biodiversity Conservation Centres.
  • Providing a service to conservation agencies by housing confiscated or orphaned animals, including rhinos, at no cost. For example, in 2010 the NZG housed a one year old Southern White Rhino which has now been identified for its breeding programme.
  • Highlighting the plight of these species through its education and awareness programmes. The NZG reaches an audience of approximately 600 000 visitors annually, including 200 000 children. A special awareness programme that the NZG is currently involved in organising is the Radio 702 Walk the Talk for Penguins and Rhino planned for later this year.

Mike Knight, Chair of the IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group commended the rhino range states in Africa and Asia that have taken strong measures to conserve remaining rhinos, and consequently increased some rhino populations. "It is our hope that all rhino range states will join Indonesia and take advantage of the International Year of the Rhino by giving priority to securing their rhino populations and repeating the success that has previously been achieved by others," he said.

Yolan Friedmann, CEO of the Endangered Wildlife Trust commented that the rhino poaching crisis has demonstrated that there is no single solution to addressing the illegal wildlife trade, which is an increasing global phenomenon. "Estimated to be the third largest form of illegal trade, after drugs and human trafficking, wildlife trade often has its roots in organised, trans-boundary crime. For this reason a multi-pronged approach involving the collaboration and cooperation of a diverse range of partners is critical," she said.

Excerpt from IUCN statement

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