THE INTERNATIONAL UNION for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has officially declared the wild black rhino as extinct.
The news comes just two weeks after the Javan rhino was announced as extinct in Vietnam.
Rhinos are vulnerable to poaching because of the value of their horns, which is powdered down and traded to be used in traditional Asian medicine, despite the lack of scientific evidence of its benefits.
Although the medicine is illegal, a high demand for it exists in countries such as China and Vietnam. The horns are also used to make dagger handles in Yemen and Oman.
“Walking with a gold horn”
Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, told BBC News: “You’ve got to imagine an animal walking around with a gold horn; that’s what you’re looking at, that’s the value and that’s why you need incredibly high security.”
However, he added that criminal poaching gangs were operating in areas where it was difficult to implement the necessary security.
The Union annually updates a Red List, which also claims a subspecies of white rhino in central Africa is critically endangered. Also, 40% of terrestrial reptiles in Madagascar are threatened. However, the list also states that new areas have been designated for conservation.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is among the partners that help compile the list. It now has a record number of threatened species and the IUCN claims that 25% of the world’s mammals are at risk of extinction.
There are a few hopeful stories, such as the reintroduction of the Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus), which was listed as extinct in the wild in 1996. A captive breeding programme has led to a wild population estimated to be over 300.
But ZSL’s Dr Monika Boehm told the BBC: “Unfortunately, the overall trend is still a decline in biodiversity. We still haven’t achieved our conservation potential.”
– Monica Sarkar
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