Black rhino sets out on rocky road to recovery

A A A

With its curved horns, armour-plated body and unpredictable temper, the black rhino has been among the most wonderful sights of the African savannah. Now the species, which seemed destined for extinction a decade ago, appears to have been pulled back from the brink.

Numbers of the black rhino, Diceros bicornis, are recovering for the first time in 100 years, according to a survey published last week. At the start of the 20th century, there were about 400,000 black rhinos, but poaching reduced the population to 65,000 in the 1970s and, as the slaughter reached its height, dropped to just 2,400 in the mid-1990s. But conservation has increased the numbers to 3,600, with an increase of 500 in the past two years, according to a new headcount by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the African Rhino Specialist Group, part of the World Conservation Union.

The white rhino, Ceratotherium simum, has shown the way to recovery, increasing from a population of just 50 rhinos 100 years ago to about 11,000 today. Both species are found in the savannah belt from Namibia and South Africa through Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania.

"This is the end result of a long road we have been travelling for many years," said Callum Rankine, international species officer for WWF. "Rhinos don't do anything very quickly, and that includes breeding."

The species' recovery is being cited as an example of successful co-operation between wildlife organisations, African governments and local people, who have implemented tough anti-poaching measures while also preserving the rhino's habitat and promoting tourism.

The WWF, along with the World Conservation Union and other wildlife groups, has spent more than 20 years restoring the favoured habitat of the rhinos, which thrive on grass, bush and trees. They have also worked closely with communities, particularly those in northern Namibia, to turn poachers into gamekeepers. Conservancy areas were set up where the local people were given grants and the rights to manage their land independently of the national government.

"It was about showing how you could use the rhino habitat for people," Mr Rankine said. "Black rhinos are worth millions of dollars to economies. They are one of the 'Big Five' that people go on safaris for," he said.

"It's an honour to see rhino in the wild - they are fabulous beasts. They are also a flagship species. Where you have rhinos you have other small animals, carnivores and birds."

Despite a worldwide ban on trade in rhino horn, the poaching threat has not evaporated. Rhino horn is still used in Asia, in traditional Chinese medicine, while dagger handles from the horn can still be bought in the souks of the Middle East.

Numbers of rhino sub-species in some parts of Africa have reached the point of no return. The northern white rhino has been reduced to a population of 20 animals in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the population of western black rhino in Cameroon is even more fragmented.

"There are still people out there for whom the best rhino is a dead rhino because they can make some money out of it," Mr Rankine said. "But if you shoot it, you only get the money once."

IN BLACK & WHITE

* Despite their names, both black and white rhinos are brownish grey. It is thought the black rhino was so named because it looks darker when wallowing in mud.

* The white rhino is thought to be a mistranslation of the Dutch word "wijde", which means "wide" and refers to the rhino's broad, square lips.

* The smaller black rhino is also known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros, as its upper lip sticks out beyond its lower one.

* Rhinos have two horns made from keratin - the same protein that makes up human hair and nails.

* The white rhino, up to 1.8m tall and weighing up to 2,500kg, is the second largest land mammal after the elephant.

* Rhinos have poor eyesight, but their hearing and sense of smell are acute.

* Though most rhino species are shy, the black rhino can react aggressively to unusual smells and charges at speeds of up to 30mph.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London