Deaths of rhinos at a tipping point
WASHINGTON: Deaths of rhinos from poaching are fast approaching a tipping point, with the number of endangered creatures killed annually nearly outnumbering births for the first time, international experts warned yesterday.
South Africa is the epicentre of the crisis, with a record 827 black and white rhinos killed so far this year, already far surpassing last year’s record of 668, said the International Rhino Foundation.
“These poaching levels threaten to wipe out decades of conservation progress, and it is imperative that we take action now,” said IRF executive director Susie Ellis.
Despite the heavy toll of poaching, birth rates by black rhinos – of which there are 5 000 left – continue to slowly increase, said the IRF.
Meanwhile, the white rhino population of about 20 400 is also slowly increasing.
“…the situation is almost certainly unsustainable in the long term,” the IRF said in its State of the Rhino report.
Representatives of the USbased foundation were meeting with conservation leaders from around the world in Tampa, Florida to discuss new strategies to end the crisis.
“Despite the crisis, there is hope for rhinos,” Ellis said.
“We believe that the situation can be turned around. The sticking point is whether rhino countries like South Africa and consumer countries like Vietnam and China will enforce their laws and whether countries like Indonesia will take the bold actions needed to save Sumatran and Javan rhinos.”
As few as 100 Sumatran rhinos are left, and there are around 44 Javan rhinos. Both are on the brink of extinction.
The report also warned of “recent increases in poaching in northeastern India”, home to the greater one-horned rhino of which about 3 300 remain in the world. There had been some protection successes in Botswana, Zimbabwe, India and Indonesia. – Sapa-AFP