In the late 19th century the southern white rhino was believed to be extinct but luckily a tiny population was found and from this conservationists built a population of around 20,000 making it the most secure of the worlds rhinos. Unfortunately this success story doesnt fair well for the northern white rhino as only 3 a left in the world today.
Two females and one male roam the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya surrounded by armed guards 24/7, a sight similar to a head of state leaving their house, only without the glamour and in its place danger of loosing their lives, a fact possibly not known by the rhinos.
So how did we get here ? Well to keep it brief the answer would be Humanity.
Our Anthropocentric ways impact the world we live in, in ways we do realise but for some reason not enough is directed towards this agenda. Maybe we have reached a point of no return, perhaps our actions are irreversible and if so it would be absurd to rule out the same fate lays ahead for us, the only difference being, if 3 of us were left on the planet being protected round the clock by some post anthropogenic species, we would know exactly what is going on and we would be terrified.
The northern white rhino formerly roamed Central Africa (parts of Uganda, South Sudan and DRC), around 1919 their population was abundant around 2000 but by the 1970s Poaching had reduced that number to 500 and by the 21st century they were only 30 northern white rhinos left in the wild. By 2007 these animals were extinct in the wild and only 8 survived in captivity. In 2009, 4 of the remaining white rhinos were transported to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy Kenya where they were going to try to reintroduce the rhinos to heir natural habitat in an attempt to encourage reproduction. However it has not been successful since and only 3 are now left in in the conservancy.
According to the WWF website, uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era was historically the major factor in the decline of the white rhinos. Today poaching for the illegal trade in the rhinos horn is the major threat.(Hence why the remaining 3 need personal body guards). The Horn is used in traditional asian medicine as a cure for a range of illness – from hangovers to fevers to cancer. (Is it worth killing a whole species for a hangover ? what ever happened to painkillers ?) Dr. Paula Kahumbu a Kenyan Wildlife Conservationist refers to it as quack medicine as the rhino horn has no medicinal value. In Vietnam upper-middle class citizen use the horn as a symbol of wealth (because a platinum credit card isnt enough) and play a huge role in creating a market for the poaching cartels in Africa.
Something to note, this quack medicine demands by traditional medicine does not only affect rhinos, in parts of East and West Africa it known that albinos are targeted for similar purposes. So if you thought this only affects animals, I assure you human life is at stake as well.
To make it worse Yahoo in Japan sold 12 tonnes of elephant ivory between 2012 and 2014. Even after a petition signed by more than a million signatures to stop ivory sales on their website, the company defended its practice by stating the items in question were permitted to be sold because they were acquired before the 1989 trade ban.(as if that is the issue)
The Northern white rhino is vulnerable to hunting as they are relatively unaggressive and move around in herds. Now this peaceful animal is critically endangered and based on the information we have, it is unlikely that the remaining 3 will reproduce and if they do it is highly unlikely that it will be a natural process.
At the centre of a project dubbed the last chance to survive by the Ol Pejeta conservancy is Sudan the last male northern white rhino standing. He is 42 year old something of concern as the estimated life span of rhinos is 50 years. The campaign launched in 2015 hopes to raise enough money to perform an IVF to make a rhino. Only 14,123 pounds have been raised, falling short by more than 485000 pounds to reach their target.