Conservation: saving our Elephants and Rhinos

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Elephants on the move. Image from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/17/illegal-ivory-trade-poachers-africa

On Saturday there was a save the elephants march which attracted 3000 people who walked for 10 KM. The walk was organized by Wildlife Direct, SUSO and KWS Kenya. Dr. Paula Kahumbu and Prof. Judi Wakhungu the cabinet secretary for environment, water and natural resources were in the frontline. The starting point was the National Museums of Kenya Botanical Garden and ended at Kenya Wildlife Services Headquarters.

Elephants on the move. Image from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/17/illegal-ivory-trade-poachers-africa
Elephants on the move. Image from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/jan/17/illegal-ivory-trade-poachers-africa

Poaching is killing more than 35,000 elephants every year and more than 1,000 rhinos every year. Africa loses 4 elephants to poachers every hour, every day of the year. It is estimated that less than 300,000 survive today. Africa loses 3 rhinos to poaching each day. Less than 25,000 survive today.

With these low numbers of rhinos I would like to show you how important the conservation of rhinos is. We might be the last generation to see rhinos if we continue with this trend.

There are five species of rhino

1. White Rhino

Characteristics
• They are square-lipped
• They grow to between 1.5m and 1.8m in height
• They weigh 1800kgs to 3000kg
• They are grazers hence eat ground vegetation
• They have 2 horns: a larger one and a smaller inner horn.

There are 2 subspecies, the northern white rhino which are almost extinct with only 5 of them remaining and the southern white with over 24000 remaining.

2. Black Rhino

Characteristics
• They have a hooked lip
• They grow to 1.6m in height
• They are shy and aggressive
• They are browsers hence feed on twigs
• There are about 5055 remaining

There are 4 subspecies, Southern Central Black Rhino, Eastern Black Rhino, Western Black Rhino but were declared extinct in 2011 and the South Western Black Rhino.

3. Greater one-horned Rhino

Characteristics
• They grow to 1.75m to 2m in height
• They weigh 1800 to 2500
• They have one horn
• They are found in India and Nepal and only about 3330 are alive today.

4. Sumatran Rhino

Characteristics
• There are less than 100 remaining
• They are hairy
• Grow to 1m to 1.5m in height
• They weigh 500kg to 960kg
• They are found in Sumatra (Indonesia) and Sabah(Malaysia)

5. Javan Rhino

Characteristics
• They are found in Java, Indonesia in Ujung Kulon National Park
• Grow to 1.4m to 1.7m in height
• They weigh 900kg to 2300kg
• They have 1 horn.

Kenya has 3 of the 5 Northern White Rhinos that exist in the world, Najin 25, Fatu 14 and Sudan 42. Najin is Sudan’s daughter and Fatu is his granddaughter and they are all found in Ol Pejeta. The other two are Nola 41 in San Diego zoo and Nabire 31 in Czech. Nola is too old to mate and Nabire has ovarian cysts so she can’t reproduce. They are all in captivity and hence declared extinct in the wild in 2008. The only surviving Northern White Male Rhino is called Sudan and can be found in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. He is 42 years old which is very old for a rhino as their life expectancy is 35 to 50 years. The fate of the Northern white rhinos falls on him.

When he was born in 1972 more than 1000 Northern White Rhinos still roamed the wild. In 2003 they were less than 12 and were in the wilds of DRCs Garamba National Park where they were all poached. Sudan is expected to bring more to the species but with his old age his hind legs are so weak he can’t mount a female but he tries. The only viable mate for him is his daughter Najin because Fatu has lesions in her uterus and can’t carry to term. They hope she heals so that she can help in the progression of the species.

The mating ritual of the rhinos is to have both the male and female fight and if the male wins then they mate. Sudan has been beaten so many times that he had to be relocated. The options conservationists are now considering is having a test tube rhino and implant it in a Southern white rhino. This is how dire the scenario is.

The rhinos are poached because of their horns as they bring good luck. The interesting bit is that their horns are made of keratin, the same material that makes our nails. If you are not getting any good luck and prominence with your nails, rhino horns will not help you.

Poaching is illegal and wrong and we should try doing our part in sensitizing people and speaking out or Fatu will be the last Northern white rhino you will see or hear about.

Check out Jackie Chan’s video about how Rhino poaching contributes to terrorism. “Tools of the Trade” Starring Jackie Chan

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