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ort- Conservation of the Black Rhino.

Native to eastern and central Africa, including places such as Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Zimbabwe, the black rhinoceros is classified as critically endangered, with one subspecies, the western Black Rhinoceros, declared extinct by the IUCN in 2011. For an extensive period of the twentieth century, the continental black rhinoceros was one of the most numerous of all the species of rhino. The severity of this issue is proven by the figures that have been gathered to show the rapid decline of numbers. During the 1960s, the population of Black Rhinoceros’ was around 70,000, however just 21 years later in 1981, that number decreased by roughly 55,000 to 60,000, leaving between 10,000 and 15,000 rhinos. [1] During the earlier half of the 1990s, the number of Black Rhinoceros was as low as just under 2,500, and by the year 2004, it had been reported that the number stood at a shocking 2,410. These figures clearly outline the seriousness of the decline and provides the reason as to why there are several conservation methods working to help save this beautiful creature.

There are four sub-species that are recognised: Southern-central black rhino, currently the most numerous of the species. They are classified as critically endangered. There is also the South-western black rhino which is too classed as critically endangered. The Eastern African black rhino has a smaller but growing population in Tanzania but is currently stronghold in Kenya, this sub-species is also classified as critically endangered. Finally, there is the West African black rhino, which is sadly classified as ‘Probably Extinct’.

Figure 1- Black Rhino Decline

This graph, taken from WWF in 2004 shows the extreme decline in the number of Black Rhinos from 1969 to 2004. According to the graph there is a decrease of roughly 66,000 rhinos in just 35 years. This correlates with the data above and due to the fact it’s originally taken from WWF, it’s most likely to be a reliable source of information. [2]

Why is the Black Rhino declining?

The black rhino has declined so drastically and so rapidly to the brink of extinction for several reasons. The most common being due to human intervention including the illegal poaching for their horn. To the lesser extent, the numbers have decreased as a result of the destruction of their habitat. It is clear that the rhino has suffered extensively for several decades.

A major culpable market for the use to rhino horn has historically been tracked to Arab nations who use the horns for the production of ornately carved handles for ceremonial daggers called jambiyas. In the 1970s, the demand for these handles increased greatly, resulting in the number of black rhinoceros declining by 96% between 1970 and 1992.[3] This is further supported by the evidence suggested in the first paragraph and provides an explanation for the severe decrease in numbers. Said by herbalists to be able to cure fevers, revive comatose patients and aid male sexual stamina and fertility, the horn of the Black Rhino is also used in traditional Chinese medicine; however the herbal properties have yet to be proven by medical science. C.A Spinage, in 1962, appeared to share the belief with Asians that the horn had aphrodisiac properties and many were willing to pay a great deal of money for such a product. However even without any prove that the rhino horn held aphrodisiac properties, it’s the mainstay of TCM and its collection has been held responsible for the deaths of thousands of rhinos across the world. As said by Ann and Steve Toon “For practitioners of traditional Asian medicine, rhino horn is not perceived as a frivolous love potion, but as an irreplaceable pharmaceutical necessity.” Eric Dinerstein (2003) concurs: “In fact, traditional Chinese medicine never has used rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac: this is a myth of the Western media and in some parts of Asia is viewed as a kind of anti-Chinese hysteria.”[4] This clearly suggests that one major component for the poaching of Black Rhinos is for it’s somewhat medicinal properties. It is also suggested that European Hunting is indeed an issue. There have been various accounts of five or six Black Rhinos being killed a day, either to be eaten, or to a more serious and sadistic extent, simply for one’s amusement.

Habitat loss is also a contributor towards the deaths of so many Black Rhinos. Many countries that once held a great deal of Black Rhinos such as, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan in Africa, have now lost their entire population. One of the most obvious declines is due to the clearance of land for human settlement and agricultural production. [5]The Black Rhino is being forced out of its natural habitat in order to accommodate human interests, without taking into consideration the effect it has on the Rhino. Logging, both authorised and illegal is an issue, as it’s once again destroying the habitat of the Rhino. Another, perhaps less, reason as to why the number of Black Rhinos is being affected is due to political conflict. In various locations, where the normal law and order has been disintegrated, it has become increasingly easier for poachers to kill the Black Rhino along with other endangered species. This is particularly notable in example of where political conflict has correlated with a rise in Rhino poaching including the Democratic Republic of Congo Zimbabwe and Nepal. [6]



WWF has been working within Rhino conservation and management in Africa for almost 50 years. They are working to increase the numbers using a series of biological methods. This includes:

-Establishing new areas for the Rhino that are protected.
-Expanding the existing protected areas and improving their management.
-Improving security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching.
-Improving local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal wildlife trade items from Africa to other regions of the world.
-Promoting well managed wildlife-based tourism experiences that will also provide additional funding for conservation efforts.[7]

WWF are tackling the illegal wildlife trade as one method of conserving the Rhino. They are setting up an African-wide rhino database with the use of rhino horn DNA analysis (RhoDIS). This contributes to forensic investigations at the area of the crime and contributes to court evidence in order to strengthen the prosecution cases. It has been circulated into law as legal evidence in courts and rhino management in place such as South Africa and Kenya. This method is done with institutions such as the University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. WWF also worked with the government and other partners in Namibia in order to create the development of new transmitters which would track movements of the rhino and protect them against poachers and hunters. As well as this, and confidential phone hotline was set up and promoted that allows people to inform the authority about poaching in a safe and anonymous environment. Due to WWF and the Government of Namibia and Mobile Telecommunications Limited, Rhino poaching within Namibia has decreased. The world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network has contributed significantly to the bilateral law enforcement efforts between South Africa and Vietnam. This has been done with written commitments in order to strengthen ports and bordering monitoring as well as information sharing to disrupt the illegal trade chain activities and bring the culprits to justice as a result of their crime against the rhino population. [8]

The number of arrests in 2010 was 165, whereas in 2013 it was as little as 46. [12] This data suggests that there has been a success in reducing the number of poachers, which according to this table has clearly decreased. This source was taken from a website aimed specifically at stopping the poaching of rhinos and so the reliability of the data should be high. The website states the origin of their information- ‘Issued by the DEA on 28th Feb 2013.’ meaning their data can be traced back to the DEA to confirm such statistics.

Figure 2- Arrests for poaching in South Africa.

WWF have also aimed to strengthen local and international law enforcement. They support accredited training and environmental and crime courses; some of these have been adopted by South Africa Wildlife College. In countries such as Kenya and South Africa, prospectors have been appointed in order to prosecute rhino crimes with the aim of dealing with the mounting arrests and bring the criminals to justice with commensurate penalties.

WWF African Rhino Programme

WWF adopted a strategic and provocative approach in 1997 in order to help to conserve the Black Rhino is the most effective way possible; this was through the African Rhino Programme. Originally, WWF’s approach to rhino conservation was primarily directed towards large protected areas which historically held a large number of rhinos is vast tracts of undisturbed land. However, they came to the realisation that not enough was being done as a result of the resources available being far too narrow. The African Rhino Programme coordinates and implements WWF’s efforts towards the in situ management and conservation of the rhinos. This responsibility is shared amongst many other partners such as government bodies, various other conservation groups and NGOs, the private sector and local communities.[9]

Black Rhino Range Expansion Project

Another conservation method is through the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. The partnership is between WWF, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Board. This project aims to increase the numbers of black rhino as well as the growth rate. This is done through facilitating partnerships between landowners with a significant black rhino habitat. The project began in 2003 and since the introduction of it; there have been 8 new black rhino populations created in South Africa. These populations and situated in Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo, totalling to a land cover of 160,000ha. Due to this project, nearly 130 black rhinos have been translocated. As well as creating new populations, this project supports the security of black rhino populations by providing anti-poaching work equipment, paying for helicopter hours for the vets who go out to treat the snared black rhino and finally by paying for rhino monitors and purchasing light aircraft for aerial surveillance.

South Africa’s Kruger National Park

Black Rhino conservation in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is also working towards saving the black rhino. In this park, there is a 100,000ha study area in the high density Southern part where a helicopter survey is completed annually. Each black rhino is photographed and the relevant age and sex is recorded. A total of 74 rhinos were counted during the 1998 census, all marked with ear-notches. Kruger National Park is almost 2,000,000ha in size and has the capacity to hold up to 2,500 more rhinos. This park is considered to be of great importance in the conservation of the black rhino due to the fact it’s only one of few reserves that is able to accommodate a genetically and demographically viable population of black rhinos. The overall objectives of the performance within this park are as follows:

-Monitor the annual black rhino population performance in the Kruger National Park.
-Mark sub-adult black rhinos in the high density area with ear notches in order to monitor their dispersal and individual life history.
-Complete and electronic database of the 10 years of black rhino demographic data recorded in the high density study area.
-Enhance rhino security in the Kruger National Park through the procurement of specialised equipment.
-Facilitate the veterinary treatment of injured black rhinos.
-Monitor the success of translocation of black rhinos from Kwazulu-Natal to Kruger Park.

Figure 3- Annual population estimates

[22]The graph above clearly provides evidence for the fact that ear-notching was indeed on the increase in order to help conserve the black rhino and collect data on the numbers in which they have in certain areas.
This source was taken from a report called Population Performance of Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in Six Kenyan Rhino Sanctuaries, written in 2004. This was a time when the number of rhinos was at its lowest, and so the performance expressed by this graph is indeed an achievement worth noting. The validity and reliability of this source is indeed factual as the reference clearly links to the correct information.

Rhino conservation in Namibia

WWF is in partnership with Namibia’s wildlife services in Etosha to protect the endangered black rhino population within that country. They are doing this by effective security monitoring, better biological management and wildlife-based tourism. Namibia is home to one of the largest populations of the black rhino, representing 97% of the subspecies Diceros bicornis. About 72% of the national population is found in Etosha National Park. Success has been achieved by the conservation by it being actively managed and protected in order to this. This is a significant and notable achievement when taking into account the size of the park as well as the large loss of rhino populations that occurred in similar areas in the neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. Due to the fact that these successes could further draw in poachers, anti-poaching efforts must be maintained at a high level with the improvement of capacity and efficiency of the anti-poaching unit in order to cope with the efforts of organising poaching. This approach aims to enhance the effectiveness of biological and security monitoring through the method of gradually increasing the number of known rhinos by ear-notching, and increasing the frequency and extent of field patrols. The objective of this conservation method focuses on advancing the security and biological monitoring of black rhinos in Etosha National Park by providing assistance to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism. Their methods of solution include:

-Equip the Wildlife Protection Service staff.
-Purchase GPS units to obtain accurate positions of animals during biological and security monitoring as well as carcass locations in the event of poaching.
-Fund the ear-notching of black rhinos for biological and security monitoring.
-Fund the repair of anti-poaching vehicles to maintain effective security monitoring.
-Finance the upgrading and development of a computer system used to store and analyse biological and security monitoring data.[14]

Effectiveness of current solutions

The effectiveness of the solution given by the WWF African Rhino Programme has been proven to be a success due to information expressed by WWF. Many rhinos are now recovering in a series of African landscapes. This has been reached due to the anti-poaching projects and work with communities who also benefit from the schemes. The success shown by the fact that when the programme was first introduced, there were only 2,599 black rhinos remaining in the wild, however today, this number as nearly doubled to 5,000, thus proving that this strategy has indeed been effective in increasing the numbers of this critically endangered species.

The Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has also been a success in a series of ways and so can be considered quite effective. To date, there has been the birth of over 40 calves on project sites and only 3 rhinos have been poached from these secure sites. Other species have also been helped due to the fact that the Black Rhino is a flagship for creating larger blocks of land for conservation purposes. This includes benefits for species such as elephants, vultures, leopard tortoises and wild dogs.[10]

The South Africa’s Kruger National Park conservation efforts can too be considered an effective solution due to the figures produced. In September 1994, it was recorded by A J Hall-Martin and M H Knight that the population of black rhinos had increased at a rate of 5% per annum to reach a total of 20 animals.[13] This shows early success and the extent at which the Kruger National Park has now reached. The work being completed in Kruger National Park to this day has also shown successes in increasing the number of black rhinos and preventing their extinction. The black rhino was once extinct in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, however it’s estimated that there is now 300 black rhinos as a result of continuous conservation efforts. In the past 10 years, only one black rhino has been poached from this area, clearly showing a vast improvement in the number of poachers.[11]

Figure 4- A graph showing the Rhino poaching number.

This graph can be used to come to an overall conclusion of whether or not these conservation methods are effective or not:

[17]It clearly suggests that the aims to decrease the number of rhinos poached was indeed effective overall, but an immediate effect is not the case. The number of rhinos poached in 2007 was extremely low, which may be due to the fact that the programmes aiming to provide as much security as possible were effective. The number increases great from 2007 to 2010, with 320 more rhinos poached in just 3 years. This suggests that the aim to decrease the poaching was not at all effective and instead had the complete opposite effect. In 2011, however, the number decreases once again, which is hopefully as a result of the conservation attempts enhancing their efforts and attempts to protect the rhino. The source of this information state that “Rhino Poaching in South Africa has shown no sign of letting up despite several arrests and even Poachers shot dead.” which clearly disagrees with the information provided officially by the programmes and projects themselves.

Figure 5- A table of poaching stats for 2012

[18]This table further supports the graph above in expressing that poaching has in fact increased over the years rather than decreasing. However, this table states that in 2011 the poaching number had not decreased to 175 as the graph suggests, but in fact increased to 448. The reliability of both sources of information must be taken into account in order to come to a sensible conclusion. This table is said to be official from DEA, which is most likely to be more reliable than the graph taken from Pilanesberg Wildlife Trust. Despite this, the DEA table specifically states that the figures are from poaching of black rhinos individually, whereas the graph most probably includes the white rhino too, suggested that neither is more reliable than the other; they may both express different information. Despite this data, the increase in the number of poachings does not necessarily mean that the numbers of black rhino is not increasing, which is of course the main focus of the various programmes and projects. As stated by WWF, conservation efforts have indeed resulted in a gradual increase in the population. As it stands, it’s estimated that there are now 4,838 black rhinos, which is quite clearly an improvement from the year 2004 when there was only 2,410, nearly half of what there is now. The species is now currently living in a patchy distribution from Cameroon in the west to Kenya in the east, and south to South Africa. However, it still remains that 98% of the total population is found in just 4 countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya.

Reliability and validity of the data

In order to ensure that the data within my report was reliable and valid, I ensured that I followed the link to each reference on my chosen website and checked whether or not the information matched what the link said. This was successful as each link provided the same information as it suggested, proving that the information stated in my report is both valid and reliable. As well as this, I used a report written by a scientist rather than using yet another website, creating a wider range of sources of information. Not only this, due to the fact the report was written by a scientist, it could be someone who had direct statistics to the poaching numbers, conservation efforts and the increase/decrease in the number of black rhinos left. Their knowledge on this issue would also be much more accurate in comparison to a personal blog or an inexperienced person. Another way I had to ensure my data was both reliable and valid was through the actual source itself. I carefully selected my sources and information from websites that were reliable. For example, I used the WWF website as, as an official organisation widely known for working to help conserve a variety of species, they are clearly going to have precise and up-to-date information. Figure 1 is a prime portrayal and can therefore be considered a reliable and valid piece of data. A second example would be ‘Save The Rhino’. Due to the fact they specifically work to help save the rhinoceros through a series of methods, the graphs, tables and facts are going to be accurate as they will have directly obtained them through their own input as well as the information collected by conservationists, scientists and other programmes/projects.


Environmental implications

As mentioned as a result of the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, conserving the black rhino has helped to benefit other species. The reason as to why the conservation of the black rhino has been proven beneficial to not only the species alone is due to the fact that many of the programmes and projects tackle the issue through protecting and conserving their natural habitat, which of course is home to a series of other species. This has been extremely beneficial in terms of the environment as the area of land that the species are located will too be protected and conserved, helping to contribute to plants and various species thriving. Dr. Jacques Flamand, in charge of the WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, stressed the importance of the conservation of the black rhino as it provides safe breeding grounds for other species and organisms. Just like the black rhino, the wild dog is also critically endangered, and so by protecting this species habitat too, the environmental implications are indeed proven positive. Flamand pointed out that the wild dog was once on the brink of extinction, however its numbers are “increasing very well” as they have settled on the new black rhino conservation areas. The wild dogs have been provided with a larger amount of safe land available to them, increasing breeding.[15] By conserving the black rhino, habitats and environments and other endangered species, biodiversity will increase. This means that more species will be situated in different countries which will also increase the social aspects in terms of educated reasons. Through the use of zoos, an endangered species is provided with the correct conditions, diet and any medical care necessary. Breeding programmes are also commonly introduced which are usually very beneficial. A wider range of people will advance their knowledge on a species if they are able to see them for themselves, which not only works in their favour, but may also encourage the human population to donate to conservation charities or adopt an animal.

Economic implications

With more species and a protected environment, tourism in countries such as South Africa will increase. This will help the country itself economically, meaning more efforts may be made to help conserve endangered species. As well as this, more money will be available to help to contribute towards conserving a species, which is of course an expensive programme to run. Conserving a species does have its benefits economically, however there are also disadvantages and implications that are of course taken into account before conserving a species to ensure that it’s worth it; there must be a high chance of the outcome being a successful one. It has been proven that in order to create a positive outcome for the conservation of the black rhino; it’s much more effective to do it in the wild. The average annual cost of protecting one rhino in protected areas was $1,657, whereas the cost in captivity ranged from $16,300 to $28,176.[16]

Due to the fact that the programmes and projects that are helping to protect the black rhino are done in protected areas, the overall economic factors are not detrimental to the economy and could therefore be suggested that it’s worth the money being spent, especially as the number of black rhinos are increasing. Another economic advantage is that with the increase in the number of arrests, the number of active poachers is decreasing. This means that less equipment in order to conserve the rhino will decrease due to less demand needed to protect them, meaning that less money will be spent as a result. This could leave more money to contribute to the conservation of other species and so the overall outcome is beneficial. The economy will benefit in terms of tourism. Increasing the population of rhinos in a largely distributed area is once again going to encourage the extent of tourism, helping not only the country in financial way, but also the conservation project itself. A disadvantage in terms of imprisonment, however, is that the cost to keep a criminal in prison is quite high, and so more money is being spent the more poachers that are arrested. This will increase the amount of tax being paid which would ultimately negatively affect the economy. Within the rhino conservation in Namibia, a lot of their work is centred on helping to pay for equipment such as rhino monitors and purchasing light aircraft as well as paying for helicopter hours. This will not be a cheap programme to run and so many put the economy at a disadvantage in terms of spending too much money.

Alternative solutions

In order to improve the increase of the species to a further extent, there are other measures that could be put into place. One solution could be to legalise the trade of rhino horn. According to the South African environmental department, criminals have been responsible for the slaughtering of more than 1,000 black rhinos in the past five years. [19] Due to the fact that rhino horn can be sold for very high prices on the black market, they are extremely popular amongst criminals. It is also commonly popular as a result of the medicinal properties that it’s claimed to have; some people in Asia, notably in Vietnam, believe that the horn has the capability to cure cancer[20], clearly making it a very popular and desired product. Although it may seem ineffective and would have the complete opposite effect, legalising the trade of rhino horn could in fact help save this species as the trading of this could be controlled centrally by the correct authorities who would not use the method of poaching to obtain the results. Instead, the horn could be taken from the animal that has died from natural causes. Although this seems impossible as the numbers are so low, should poaching decrease, more and more black rhinos will be able to be used once they have died naturally. It could be argued that the crime syndicates’ black market will be shut down resulting in the cease of poaching. This would be beneficial economically. Without illegal poachers, the number of arrests would decline, which would reduce the amount of tax being paid to keep them in prison.

Rather than simply protecting the environment of the black rhino and creating anti-poaching measures, it would also be effective to introduce more captive breeding programs as a solution. A successful example could be used to mirror a future outcome of the black rhino. In 1971, the de Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre was introduced. In just 30 years between 1975 and 2005, 242 litters were born, totally to 785 cubs being born.[21] This study provides a sufficient amount of evidence that captive breeding programs are indeed extremely effective if done correctly. If the same was to be done with the black rhino, the numbers would slowly increase, which could possibly be held responsible for the savour of the black rhino. By taking only two black rhinos into captivity in a Zoo, breeding could be encouraged and the birth of even one or two rhinos could create an overall successful outcome. The rhinos within the breeding program would have a healthy diet, medical treatment when necessary, and the required environment for them to live a healthy life, thus proving that this solution would most definitely be a positive one on a series of bases. Social and economic advantages would also be brought about as a result of more breeding programs. Zoos increase tourism as well as benefiting the economy through their entry costs. People would have the chance to see a black rhino for themselves, which would be a once in a lifetime opportunity with the current situation. Their knowledge on the species would advance, as well as encouraging them to do as much as they can to help conserve the species.

Observing all of the data I have collected, it is clear that the programmes and projects that have aimed to help conserve the black rhino have been successful in doing so. As a whole, the number of black rhinos has doubled in 9 years, which is a great conservation success. One area that perhaps needs to be tackled more effectively is the number of poachings. It is still increasing at a rapid rate, which won’t allow the number of this species to thrive as it could without the increase. Perhaps with legalisation of poaching, or the introduction of more captive breeding programmes, the black rhino would be able to double once again, but in a shorter period of time. The efforts shown by the groups aiming to move the black rhino out of the critically endangered species have impacted on the species greatly, proving that these methods have indeed been effective and should be continued with a similar attitude.

Evaluation of Sources


I ensured that I only used data that would be both reliable and accurate. In order to make sure that the data I took from Wikipedia was reliable, I followed the reference number to the reference link. I clicked on the link and read the data from the source as this would prove that the data I selected was accurate and hadn’t been falsely created. This proved to be effective for every piece of information I took from Wikipedia as within my referencing are several pages that Wikipedia used, and they show correct and reliable information. I can therefore say that when evaluating this source, it's accurate in terms of the data I used. Despite this, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, and so other data from that page may not have been one hundred per cent reliable, suggesting that although this source may have been accurate for the information I took, other data about the black rhino on the page may not follow the same trend. The referencing may also link back to a website and match the information on that page, however the page it links to may not be directly accurate, proving that all sectioned data I used may not be entirely efficient.

Rhino Report

In order to create an issue report with more diverse and widespread data, I used another method rather than a website: this was a report written by a scientist entirely based on the conservation of the black rhinoceros and how the numbers have varied as well as the methods used to obtain these results. Due to the fact it was written by a scientist and the data was collected by a conservationist, the facts and figures shown throughout this report can be deemed very efficient, reliable, valid and accurate. The writer of this source is clearly very able in this field of work and so it would be very unlikely for them to have obtained and analysed any inefficient and inaccurate information that is indeed false. However, although the writer of this report should be considered very trustworthy as they referenced, I was unable to follow any referencing back as most of the sources they used were from books or reports from other people which I did not have access to, meaning it may have been unintentionally incorrect data perhaps simply due to human error. As well as this, success could have been exaggerated due to it being a personal report.

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