Demand for animal products from Asian markets has long been a challenge to conservationists in Africa, and this latest news suggests that they have lost the war to prevent the white northern rhino from becoming extinct. Scientists are pessimistic on the survival prospects of the species considering that there are now only seven remaining.
White Northern Rhino: The death of an emblem of hope
Suni was found dead in his enclosure on October 17. He had been living in Kenya‘s Ol Pejeta Conservancy after being transferred from the Zoo Dv?r Králové in the Czech Republic, where he was born. His birth led to new hope in the fight to save the species and he was sent to Kenya along with three other northern rhinos in an effort to promote population growth.
Suni died without fathering any offspring. An autopsy is under way but reserve officials are certain that he was not killed by poachers, as his enclosure was monitored around the clock.
Part of a larger problem for the death of white northern Rhino
The northern white rhinoceros was cut off from its cousin the southern white by the Great Rift Valley, and the forests of Central Africa. This led to isolation and low population numbers, even before it was affected by political problems in Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. Poaching and habitat loss led to a rapid decline in numbers.
Conservation ecologist Stuart Pimm of Duke University considers it to be only a matter of time until the animal is extinct.
That “we’ve lost [the subspecies] is a statement of just how bad off large animals are across Africa,” said Pimm. “It’s a measure of the fact that rhinos are being massively poached and in trouble wherever they are.”
Although the southern white rhinoceros is also considered to be in danger, the black rhinoceros is largely well-protected. Scientists are using the management of the northern white rhinoceros as a lesson in how not to manage other rhinoceros species.
Rhinoceroses are not the only animals suffering. Many of Africa’s megafauna species, including lions and elephants, have seen rapidly declining population numbers due to various human causes.