Yesterday (the 22nd of September) was World Rhino Day, a yearly celebration which promotes the welfare and conservation of all five extant species of rhinoceros. It is a day which aims to raise awareness for these fascinating, horned mammals since the number of rhinos across the world is disturbingly low. The illegal wildlife trade; poaching; habitat loss and civil disturbances are all fuelling the decline of this magnificent beast. World Rhino Day is certainly a great way to raise awareness for these critically endangered animals but their conservation cannot just be limited to a day, we must show our support for these rhinos throughout the year.
I have already discussed the one-horned Javan Rhinoceros in my first post on this blog so today I chose to talk about the two-horned Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Native to eastern and southern areas of sub-Saharan Africa, the black rhino differs from its larger ancestor (the White Rhinoceros) due to its hooked lip. Black rhinos are herbivorous browsers and this prehensile, pointed upper lip helps them grasp and consume leaves from bushes and trees whereas white rhinos have evolved to have a wide, square mouth, adapted for grazing. This subtle but vital difference between these two species is yet another testament to the intricacy and brilliance of natural selection and evolution.
Contrary to the name, black rhinos range from grey to brown in colour. They bear two horns, with the front one being longer in length – usually around 50cm long – which are both comprised of the protein keratin.
The IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) lists this odd-toed ungulate as critically endangered and their main threat is illegal poaching for their prized horns. In China, some superstitiously believe that these horns have medicinal value and religious meaning which continues to augment the demand for their horns.
However, there is still a lot of hope for these creatures, emphasised by all the global support on World Rhino Day. I loved reading about all these stories and facts shared by so many like-minded individuals. It truly gave me hope that we can make a difference and save all these species on the brink of extinction so long as we continue to show our support and incorporate a global effort. Currently, just over 5,000 black rhinos roam the woodlands and plains of sub-Saharan Africa and international organisations such as the WWF and International Rhino Foundation are helping to conserve and protect this magnificent species. I plead everyone to show their support for rhinos across the world and put an end to the illegal wildlife trade which endangers so many unique animals on earth. One way you can do this is by signing this WWF petition which has nearly reached 500,000 signatures and aims for action to be taken against the illegal wildlife trade.
Thank you for reading.