Rhino Poaching: An Extinction Crisis
The number of rhinos being poached and killed for their horns began to climb dramatically about five years ago after several quiet decades.
At the beginning of the 20th century only a handful of rhinos were being killed each year. In 2009 122 rhinos were killed for their horns in South Africa. A year later, that number had nearly tripled to 333. It climbed again in 2011, reaching 448 animals. This year has already broken that record: as of October 15, a record 455 rhinos have already been killed in South Africa.
Although this is a worldwide problem, the best counts of rhino poaching come out of South Africa, where more than 80 percent of the world’s rhinos now live, but other countries face similar threats. At least 15 rhinos have been killed in India so far this year. The last 35 or so Javan rhinos in Indonesia are under constant guard (but still threatened). The western black rhino was poached into extinction in Cameroon around the year 2000, and the final rhino in Vietnam (a subspecies of the Javan rhino) was killed by poachers in 2010.
Although the majority of poached rhinos are southern white rhinoceri—the most populous of the five rhino species—all species are affected. For some rhinos, any loss could affect the entire future of their species.