rhino iconPoaching of an Iconic Species

Rhinos were once abundant throughout Africa and Asia with an approximated worldwide population of 500 000 in the early twentieth century. However, despite intensive conservation efforts, poaching of this iconic species is dramatically increasing, pushing the remaining rhinos closer and closer towards extinction. The Western black rhino was declared extinct by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) in 2011, with the primary cause identified as poaching. South Africa which has by far the largest population in the world and is an incredibly important country for rhinoceros conservation. However poaching has reached a crisis point, and if the killing continues at this rate, we could see deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the very near future.This poaching is predominantly driven by the illegal trade in rhino horn; globalisation and economic growth has made it easier to establish illegal trading routes. The current poaching crisis is attributed to the growing demand for rhino horn in Asian countries, mainly Vietnam and China. We should enrol local communities in the fight against poachers. The infiltration of these communities by sophisticated criminal gangs not only threatens rhinos, it also compromises the safety and sustainable development of the people living in these communities. Local communities can help tackle wildlife crime, but only if they see themselves as active partners in conservation.