A spike in interest sees World Rhino Day take centre stage

World Rhino Day on Sunday 22 September celebrates the five remaining rhinoceros species – black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan – and aims to raise awareness of illegal rhino horn trade.

It is currently estimated that every 10 hours a rhino is killed for its horn. Last year 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone, which is home to about 75% of the world’s rhino population. Already in 2013, 618 have been lost to poaching. It is believed this figure could rise to 1,000 by the end of this year.

Rhino poaching (along with other illegal wildlife trade) has reached crisis point, with conservationists saying that if this rate continues, rhino deaths will outnumber rhino births in 2016-2018.

Dr Rob Brett, Fauna & Flora International’s Africa Programme Director, said: “With these continued rates of killing, a tipping point may soon be reached where numbers of the more numerous rhino species start to plummet.”

Recent media attention is helping to highlight the situation – last week’s announcement of the United for Wildlife alliance, of which Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is a partner, has acknowledged trafficking and illegal trade to be a priority conservation area, as has President Obama’s Executive Order and subsequent Presidential Taskforce on Wildlife Trafficking, announced by The White House in July.

According to the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, the recent increase in rhino poaching is closely linked to an increased demand for rhino horn in Asia – particularly Vietnam where it carries prestige and is erroneously believed to have medicinal properties.

Though the situation remains grave, efforts by conservation organisations such as FFI (and our long-term support to Ol Pejeta and other in-country conservancies in Kenya) are providing hope for the future of Africa’s rhinos.

Dr Brett continues, “There are rhino reserves that are being established in Africa on state, private, and communal lands where rhinos are still well protected and have sufficient area and quality of habitat for populations to expand rapidly. The surest way to buffer the impacts of poaching is to ensure that population growth rates can be maintained at high levels (5-10% per year).

“Successful rhino conservation programmes involve sound biological management and monitoring of animals and their habitats in order keep densities well below carrying capacity and to move out surplus animals proactively to stock new reserves.”

Ol Pejeta Conservancy is now the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, and will shortly reach 100 animals. New sanctuaries (such as Borana) have now been stocked with surplus animals from existing sanctuaries, with new secure areas on communal land (e.g. Sera Wildlife Conservancy) to follow the same model in future. FFI has provided technical and financial support to these successful rhino conservation initiatives from inception and will continue to support them in the coming years.

To show your support for World Rhino Day, we ask you to pledge your support on Twitter using #iam4rhinos on World Rhino Day (22 September), or support our work by making a donation.