It has been estimated that Black Rhinos numbered in the hundreds of thousands around 1900. Suffering increased persecution from habitat loss and poaching, they are killed because of a high demand for their horns which are sought for unproven medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Their horns are also used as handles for decorative daggers called jambiyas which became very trendy in the Middle East in the 70's. Since then the population has crashed from an estimated 70,000 animals down to as low as 10,000 in the early 80's to under 2500 around the turn of the century. They are now extinct in many African countries where they once lived, including the entire range of the Western subspecies. Though the population has recovered back up to nearly 5000, a new wave of increased poaching is currently threatening these numbers.
Kruger National Park claims between 60 and 90% of the world's rhinos (also in Kruger is the White Rhino, the three Asian species are even lower in number). It also claims the highest number of poached rhinos. It's vast size (19,633 square kilometers /7,580 sq mi) and lawless border with Mozambique combined with well organized desperate poachers on a continent famous for corruption poses huge challenges to protect the rhinos. Even when poachers are caught, they are rarely punished. However, efforts to protect the remaining rhinos are increasing and new technologies like drones with night vision are being employed to search for poachers. Legal hunting, albeit controversial, is being attempted in other parts of Africa to raise money for anti-poaching efforts and decrease demand for horns.
The animals in this video where filmed in a core area of the park with heavy tourist traffic. Nevertheless, in 2014 tourists witnessed a dying black rhinoceros, with its horn freshly removed, stumbling near a roadside.
It was truly impressive spending time watching these animals go about their daily business. Life has always been a struggle for humans on this planet. Now, at our current numbers, our struggle touches every part of the globe and reaches deep into the last wild areas of earth. The persecution of rhinoceros is just one example of our collective failings as a species to act as responsible stewards to this beautiful world we have inherited. Let us hope that we learn and grow before we become the next rhinoceros.
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