Tag Archives: Rhinocerous

Technologies That May Save Rhinos from Poachers

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The illegal wildlife trade, which brings in an estimated $19 billion annually worldwide, has claimed the lives of almost 6000 African rhinos since 2008, with 1175 of those killed just within South Africa, figures which have accelerated each year as demand for the horns increases steadily. Only about 5000 black rhinos, and just three northern white rhinos, which have been unable to reproduce, remain worldwide.

For poachers, killing rhinos makes good financial sense: a rhino horn in Asia was worth $60-100K per kilogram in 2013. Nevertheless, scientists and conservationists have been fighting back, using technology in creative ways to help save these beautiful creatures from having their horns hacked off and being left for dead.

A mechanical engineer thought up the idea to create robotic rhino babies, which would stay close to real rhino herds and alert authorities when poachers approached. These robo-rhinos, called Rakamera, would replicate real rhino behavior so the herds learn to accept them. The robots would be powered by hydrogen fuel cells, with internal hydraulic and servomotors to make movement possible; plus, they would be fitted with infrared sensors and cameras to track humans coming close to the herd.

Other techniques that have been implemented to stop poachers include implanting mini cameras or micro-chips into the horns, allowing officials to more easily trace and pursue poaching operations. Recently, San Francisco-based biotech startup Pembient came up with a unique and intriguing idea: they were able to create synthetic rhino horns, using a combination of rhino DNA and keratin, the protein the horns, as well as our hair and nails, are made of. These ingredients form a dry powder that is fed into 3D printers and emerges as a horn indistinguishable from the real thing. The company has even partnered with a Chinese brewery to create a beer with this synthetic powder inside, replacing other beers with real horn purported to cure hangovers. However, Pembient has faced criticism from conservation NGOs, who have long been working to reduce demand for the horns in the first place, educating the public about the dire impacts of horn poaching and the lack of evidence for supposed medicinal benefits of consuming the horn. These groups worry that flooding the market with cheap synthetic horns may actually have the unintended effect of increasing the general public’s desire for rhino horns, spurring on more poachers than before.

Until the demand for rhino horns, which are believed to have healing properties, and are now frequently used as a status symbol, decreases, we must continue to track and fight poachers through technologies which will hopefully only expand and improve in years to come.

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Sources: Gallego, Jelor. “The Newest Anti-Poaching Technique? Robotic Rhinos.” Futurism. 5 December 2016.

Ankrom, Darren. “Synthetic Rhino Horn Made with a 3D Printer is the Latest Tool to Fight Poaching.” Vice. 24 June 2015.

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Your Favorite Big Mammals Are in Deeper Danger Than You Thought

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A report in the journal BioScience recently revealed that some of the world’s most beloved large mammals could disappear forever if action isn’t taken soon to protect their habitats. Threatened megafauna, which typically inspire more public sympathy and concern than similarly endangered species of plants, bacteria, or smaller animals, in this case include bears, rhinos, and gorillas. In the report, titled “Saving the World’ Terrestrial Megafauna,” a global team of conservation scientists laid out issues of particular concern to these animals’ well-being, including vast deforestation, the expansion of land used for livestock and farming, illegal hunting, and rapid human population growth.

“The more I look at the trends facing the world’s largest terrestrial mammals, the more concerned I am we could lose these animals just as science is discovering how important they are to ecosystems and to the services they provide to people,” said William Ripple, an ecology professor at the College of Forestry at Oregon State University and the report’s lead author. “It’s time to really think about conserving them because declines in their numbers and habitats are happening quickly.”

The 43 scientists note that large mammals have widespread impacts on their ecosystems, and affect everything from regulating disease risks for humans and maintaining healthy populations of animals lower down in the food chain, to preventing wildfires and spreading seeds. The experts examined global trends confronting lions, rhinos, wolves, zebras, tigers, elephants, and other animals, concluding that “Most mammalian megafauna face dramatic range contractions and population declines.In fact, 59 percent of the world’s largest carnivores and 60 percent of the world’s largest herbivores are classified as threatened with extinction on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List. This situation is particularly dire in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, home to the greatest diversity of extant megafauna.”

The scientists finished the report with a call to action for world leaders: “We must not go quietly into this impoverished future. Rather, we believe it is our collective responsibility, as scientists who study megafauna, to act to prevent their decline. We therefore present a call to the broader international community to join together in conserving the remaining terrestrial megafauna.” Hopefully their voices and research will not fall on dull ears, but will help leaders and the public come together to take measures to save these large creatures, beautiful and vital for our planet’s health.

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Source: Silva, Christina. “Humans Cause Animal Extinction: Large Mammals Including Elephants And Gorillas Are Under Threat, Study Finds.” International Business Times. 27 July 2016.

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500 White Rhinos Up for Bid at South Africa’s Kruger National Park

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South Africa’s Kruger National Park plans to make 500 white rhinos available for private bidders hoping to protect the animals and their highly-prized horns. The park asked potential investors to “make a written offer to purchase white rhinos in batches of 20 or more”.

Ideally, this measure would remove the animals from the rampant poaching that occurs at the park: over 1000 were poached in South Africa last year alone, more than three times the number in 2010. Rhino horn is used as a traditional medicine and a mark of wealth in growing consumer markets China and Vietnam.

As many as 5,000 of South Africa’s 20,000 rhinos are already owned by private ranchers, marking the expansion of a vast game farming industry that caters to eco-tourism and big-game hunting. Rhinos attract tourists for game viewing and legal trophy hunts, and some ranchers hold out hope that the horn trade will eventually be legalized.

Still, the risks and costs of keeping rhinos safe from poachers, even on private ranchers, may dissuade potential buyers from investing in the rhinos. “You are asking someone to put a large amount of money on the table in a speculative venture,” Pelham Jones, chairman of the Private Rhino Owners Association, told Reuters.

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This article was first published by The Guardian on 06 Oct 2014.

 

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World Rhino Day

Today is World Rhino Day. Wildlife conservationists and concerned individuals alike are celebrating the large, horned herbivores by spreading awareness about the vulnerable species.  World Rhino Day has grown into a global phenomenon to spread the word about both the beauty of rhinoceros and the dangers they are facing. Here are ten interesting facts about rhinos, as well as ways to contribute to World Rhino Day.

1. There are five species of rhino, which are indigenous to Africa and Asia: black, white, greater one-horned or Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. World Rhino Day celebrates all five species.

2. Rhinos have been around for more than 50 million years. Some of the world’s first rhinos didn’t have horns and roamed through North America and Europe. But no known rhino species have ever inhabited the South American or Australian continents. The Sumatran rhino is the closest living relative of the ancient woolly rhino.

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3. Rhino is short for rhinocerous, which means “nose horn.” The rhino’s horn is not bone and it’s not attached to its skull. In fact, its hollow and made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that makes up fingernails and hair. Just like our own hair and nails, a rhino’s horn continues to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime. The longest known horn was 4 feet 9 inches long on a black rhino, which on average has a 20-inch horn, according to Save the Rhino, a conservation charity based in the United Kingdom

4. Three of the rhino species are listed as “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which means they have a 50 percent chance of becoming extinct in three generations. With its headquarters in the United Kingdom, the IUCN is the leading world’s authority on the conservation status of species.

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There are perhaps 95-125 Sumatran Rhinoceros left in the wild.
A “Last Stand is being made by multiple conservation and government agencies to offer more protection and save this
species from extinction.

5. The IUCN Red List identifies Javan and Sumatran rhinos, two species native to Asia, and the black rhino, which is native to eastern and central Africa, as “critically endangered.” The Indian or greater one-horned rhino, native to the Indian subcontinent, is identified as “vulnerable.” And the white rhino, which mainly lives in South Africa, is identified as “near threatened.”

6. Rhinos can grow to over 6 feet tall and more than 11 feet long. The white rhino is the second largest land mammal after the elephant, with adult males weighing up to a massive 3.6 tons. Thanks to conservation efforts, this rhino species was brought back from the brink of extinction. But a surge in poaching for their horns has seen a record number killed in recent years. There are 20,000 southern white rhinos living in protected areas and private game reserves, mostly in South Africa, and just four northern white rhinos living in captivity in Kenya and the United States.

7. The Javan rhino is the world’s rarest land mammal and less than 50 survive in Indonesia’s Ujong Kulon National Park, according to Save the Rhino.

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Perhaps as few as 50-60 Javan rhinoceros remain in the world. However recently three separate calves were seen via camera traps. This gives hope the species can be saved from extinction.

8. Rhinos have poor eyesight and have difficulty detecting someone only a hundred feet away. But they have a high sense of smell and well-developed hearing and can run up to 40 miles per hour.

9. Rhinos have thick skin that can be very sensitive to sunburns and insect bites. The animals wallow in mud, which protects their skin from the sun and bites when it dries.

10. Rhinoceros pregnancies last for 15 to 16 months and mother rhinos are very nurturing. Their young stay with them until they are about  3 years old, according to Save the Rhino

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The Wildlife Conservation Film Festival & Biodiversity Conference, October 16-25 in New York, NY will feature several speakers to discuss the conservation of rhino. Also will be the world premiere of HORN, produced by Dr. Reina-Marie Loader of the Cinema Humain and professor at the University of Vienna.

2015 WCFF Post Card