The Rhino Crisis

We often receive questions about the current rhino crisis, which unfortunately, over the last decade, has not significantly subsided. In order to address these questions and bring awareness to the extreme complexity of the situation we have compiled this article as a resource for you to refer to. Our sources include our charities and partners (link to partners page) who are working tirelessly to gain control over the situation, as well as African government articles and other organisations with a focus on rhino conservation.

Along with our charity partner the Born Free Foundation (2012:1), we most certainly agree that the world’s rhinos are in crisis. Less than 29,000 rhino’s remain, which belong to five species spread across sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, of which three are critically endangered. “The western subspecies of black rhino in Africa was declared extinct in 2011, Vietnam’s last Javan rhino was shot by a poacher in 2010, and the last male northern white rhino had to be put to sleep in a Kenyan conservancy in March 2018” (Born Free Foundation 2018: 1).

Another of our charity partners, the Wilderness Foundation (2018:1) recognises that the rhino poaching crisis (as well as other wildlife crime) is of national (referring to South Africa) and international significance and affects all levels of society. Wildlife crime is the fourth most profitable illicit trade in the world, estimated at up to $213 billion annually. Wilderness Foundation Africa (2018:1) states that they are  working tirelessly in partnership with various organisations to address the issue of wildlife crime.

Until 1970 rhino populations across the world were fairly stable with few poaching incidents. Unfortunately within a decade, more than half of the world’s rhino populations had disappeared due to the increase in wealth in the East and therefore the rhino population was threatened with extinction. Since the 1970’s, due to numerous conservation efforts and improved security measures, the black and white rhino populations have grown. However, the growth in population is in danger of being reversed again by a reappearance of poaching. Now also known as a cure for cancer, the demand for rhino horn is rising, as well as the price.

The Wilderness Foundation launched its Forever Wild Rhino Protection Initiative in May 2011 due to the rising rhino poaching crises. Charity partner, Save The Rhino (2018:1) shed some light on the history of poaching and how it has spread. The current poaching crisis essentially began in Zimbabwe,  the trying political and socio-economic climate  facilitated rhino poaching. Once poachers had finished with the easy pickings in Zimbabwe, poachers turned to neighbouring South Africa, which therefore saw a tremendous increase in poaching from 2009-2014.

In 2013, the South African poaching crisis spread to other African countries. Firstly, Kenya was hit hard and experienced its worst year of poaching in 2013, when 59 animals were killed (which equalled over 5% of Kenya’s rhino population)(Save The Rhino 2018:1). Thereafter, in 2015 both Namibia and Zimbabwe were firmly hit, Namibia lost a total of 80 rhinos from poaching, an increase from 25 in 2014 and two in 2012. Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, at least 50 rhinos were targeted and poached in 2015, over double compared to the previous year. For Africa in its entirety, the total number of rhinos that were poached during 2015 was the most in two decades (Save The Rhino 2018:1).

All the above information is reflected in charity partner Helping Rhinos’ (2018) graph: