World Rhino Day Sounds Alarm That Species are being Pushed toward Extinction
Washington, D.C. — World Rhino Day, marked on Sept. 22, holds a renewed sense of urgency this year due to a global increase in poaching, which is pushing rhinos toward extinction, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said today.
Thus far, 635 rhinos have been poached in South Africa this year, just shy of the record 668 poached in 2012. South Africa has seen illegal poaching increase by more than 5,000 percent since 2007. The demand for rhino horn has skyrocketed due to false belief in Asia about its medicinal value. Studies have not proven rhino horn, which is basically finely compacted hair, to hold any medicinal value.
“Every single rhino is under threat of poaching at the moment,” said Barney Long, Director, Species Conservation Program, WWF. “This slaughter of rhinos is out of control and threatens to undermine decades of conservation work and the livelihoods of those who depend on them.”
In Asia, Javan and Sumatran rhinos are listed as critically endangered and are on the verge of extinction. The Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2010, leaving only a single tiny population clinging for survival on the Indonesian island of Java. Sumatran rhinos are thought to number as few as 100 individuals and remain extremely vulnerable to numerous threats.
“The remaining Javan and Sumatran rhinos are in critical need of attention and support, as they are teetering on the brink. Multiple threats face the species including: small population size, fragmented populations, poaching, disease and natural disasters. But as we have done with white, black and Indian rhinos, we can recover these species if the world would start paying attention to their needs,” Long said.
WWF is also urging governments meeting in New York this week for the Opening of the United Nations General Assembly to seize the opportunity to accelerate efforts to combat illicit wildlife trafficking.
Because of its transnational nature spanning: source, transit and demand countries, ending wildlife trafficking requires both international collaboration between countries, and internal coordination between government agencies. WWF urges heads of state to establish national task forces consisting of police, customs, justice, defense, environment and other specialized agencies.
Join the conversation about World Rhino Day on Twitter with the hashtag #iam4rhinos.
Four key rhino facts:
• There are five rhino species (listed in order of greatest threat of extinction): Sumatran (Asian), Javan (Asian), Indian (Asian), Black (African) and White (African)
• Despite having poor eyesight, rhinos are able to rely on their smell and hearing senses to navigate
• The name white rhino comes from the Dutch “weit” (wide), in reference to the animal’s wide muzzle.
• Sumatran rhinos are hairy, being closely related to the extinct wooly rhinos.
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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