The rhino has existed on earth for over 50 million years. As mega-grazers, rhinos have a critical impact on the ecosystem – by clearing vegetation, maintaining grasslands, reducing fire hazards, fertilizing soil, and dispsersing and germinating seeds. A mature rhino has no natural predator – except for humans.
Poaching is one of the greatest threats to their survival. Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are made of keratin (the same material as your hair and nails).
Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine believed to cure fevers, headaches, skin diseases, heart and liver trouble, and verility – though most experts question the efficacy.
In 1975, the first international ban on the commercial trade in rhino products was enacted, though some countries still allow trade in live rhinos and trophy hunting. In 1993, the Chinese government banned the trade and use of rhino parts but rapidly growing economies fuel demand for rhino horn in Asia. More horns leave Africa for China and Vietnam, the biggest markets for rhino products. A single horn can fetch as much as $1 million USD.
Today, only 5 rhino species remain and all are listed as endangered or vulnerable. 2/3 of the world’s rhinos live in South Africa, the poaching epicenter of the world. In 2011, an estimated 450 rhinos were killed in South Africa – more than one a day, on average.
If poaching continues at current rates, rhino populations will become unsustainable and even more species will be lost to extinction.
Via our public service announcements and short form documentary pieces, WildAid is working to educate consumers and reduce the demand for rhino horns worldwide. Addressing the demand for rhino products is fundamental to ensure the rhino’s survival.
WildAid is currently developing a multi-faceted political/consumer awareness campaign with African Wildlife Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service, while looking to provide some emergency support to law enforcement efforts.