S.T.E.M.

To save a rhinoceros…

The quote may seem random, but on some calendars, May 1st is Save the Rhino Day.

According to the International Rhino Foundation, only 29,000 live in the wild today. The number has plummeted from the 500,000 Rhinos at the start of the 20th century. Of the five rhinoceros species, the Black, Sumatran, and Javan Rhinos are critically endangered. The Greater Horned Rhinoceros remains threatened, and the White Rhino seems to be the only species that’s maintaining its numbers. Though in some parts of its range it’s extirpated.

Poaching is an obvious culprit. The number of rhino deaths due to poaching has skyrocketed in the last five years. While rhino horn is made of the same keratin as our hair and fingernails, there is a growing demand for the horn on the black market. The increase in poaching, despite outreach efforts, has led some conservationists to suggest legalizing the horn trade. In this scenario, private rhino owners could continuously harvest horns from their rhinoceroses thereby decreasing the price of the horn and destabilizing the black market trade. It’s an interesting idea, assuming that the horn harvest hurts no more than clipping a toenail. But I’m not sold on it.

Another issue is one of habitat destruction. If rhinos have nowhere to live, what does it matter if we save them? The quote above aptly describes this problem of interconnected parts in an ecosystem. Additionally, habitat fragmentation prevents rhinos from migrating and interacting with other rhinos to breed.

Rhinoceros extinction certainly is a two-pronged problem and something that we need to solve, and soon. Rhinos are the 5th largest land animal, and without concerted effort, it is very likely that they will go extinct within our lifetimes.

The International Rhino Foundation has information on how we can help conservation efforts.

Cheers,

P.S. Rhinoceros babies make the most darling sounds.

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