*As seen in The Logbook.
Based in the UK and USA with support projects in Kenya and South Africa, we spoke with the organization known as Helping Rhinos. They are doing everything possible to pull this incredible animal back from the brink of extinction and we can all contribute and help.
Jill Inglis, fundraising director of Helping Rhinos, spoke with The Logbook regarding what is being done and what can be done to help save these animals from extinction.
The charity is specifically involved in anti-poaching operations which include dog patrols, air surveillance and a rhino orphanage in Zululand.
“Working since 2012, year on year it has increased its partnerships in Africa and increased the working income in support of those partnerships,” she says.
Some of the groups that they work with include the Black Mambas, an all-female anti-poaching unit that also includes a robust educational programme to local community schools. The Zululand Rhino Orphanage which offers care and protection of baby rhino orphans who have lost their mothers due to poaching incidents and Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is home to the last two northern white rhino and the largest black rhino population in East Africa.
THE SUPPORTERS BEHIND THEM
Their cause has attracted prominent support from a number of places. Such as internationally acclaimed wildlife artist Karen Laurence Rowe who helped them secure vital funding for Ol Pejeta Conservancy through the sale of and auction of some of her work.
Raising awareness of the plight of the rhino and raising funds to support their work are two constant challenges. These are being overcome by creating partnerships and developing innovative ways to engage with their supporters and the general public.
“The more people made aware directly impacts their effectiveness,” Jill says, “The charity is ably guided by CEO Simon Jones and nominated trustees who together ensure a strategy and budget that keeps up to date with the newest and most effective methods of engaging with donors.”
A QUICK RANT FROM THE WRITER
Poaching remains the most pressing issue facing rhino.
Whereas rhino habitats are shrinking due to climate change and expansion of human populations, this does not come close to the damage inflicted to their numbers by poaching. And this is specifically related to a demand of rhino horn by the ignorant and the idiotic. It is ludicrous that people still believe rhino horn has any medicinal value at all.
This comes from those governments who are supporting unscientific and redundant claims, such as China’s consideration of lifting their rhino horn ban, which is frankly so distressing that information about that can be found at the bottom of this article.
And poaching is not only done in the dead of the night or in secret. There are organized hunts sponsored by foreigners who pay money to be taken out on safari to shoot a rhino for no other reason than for the joy of killing an endangered and rare animal. Rejoicing at the bloodshed their mentality can be summed up simply by: “I want to kill one before they’re all gone.”
ALL HOPE IS NOT LOST
Anti-Poaching efforts are not about fighting fire with fire. You cannot take up a rifle and hunt the hunters because all you are doing is creating a cycle. Instead, anti-poaching is about removing the support for poaching by eliminating the demand. Educating people so that they know what the situation is, making them aware of the consequences and empowering them to make the correct decisions.
To change the situation, awareness is vital and is one of the areas where each and every one of us can help. All of us can show our support on social media, all of us can educate ourselves and in doing so help educate others on the situation.
THE FACTS ABOUT RHINOS
Rhinos have been poached to the point of extinction for their horns. Because of the indifference and ignorance of those who should know better. Raising, spreading awareness and exposing those responsible for the poaching are some of the things that we can do to help. If we remain indifferent, then one day all we will have are images to show future generations. And when they ask where this peaceful, gigantic, beautiful animal went we’ll have to say, “We let them be hunted to death because we believed in magic rhino horn.”
HOW ENDANGERED ARE RHINOS?
Rhinos are labelled as a critically endangered species. According to figures from Helping Rhinos there are less than 30,000 living in the wild today. At the start of the 20th century, there were possibly 200,000. Human activity has caused this dramatic decline in rhino numbers. Initially numbers dropped due to hunting, but today the main threats to rhino are poaching and habitat loss.
POACHING AND ILLEGAL TRAFFICKING OF RHINO HORN
Poaching and illegal trafficking of rhino horn has increased sharply since 2007 and remains one of the major reasons why rhinos are still endangered today. Poaching is big business, and well organised criminal gangs are now well-equipped to track and kill rhinos. One rhino horn can fetch in excess of an incredible £200,000. Political and economic instability within countries can increase the threat of poaching too.
Rhino horn trade has been banned under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1977, yet the black-market demand for horn is high. Driven by Asian countries, particularly Vietnam and China. It is used in traditional Asian medicine, though there is no scientific evidence at all to suggest that horn is beneficial as a remedy to anything.
More recently, and particularly among the middle and upper-classes of Vietnam, the purchase of rhino horn signifies someone’s wealth and success. It is used as a status symbol.
LOSS OF HABITAT
Habitat loss is the other major threat to rhino populations. As more and more land is cleared for agriculture there is less available space for rhinos to thrive in. Rhinos need a large area in which to feed and roam. If rhino populations end up fragmented, with no safe ‘corridors’ to travel through, chances of successful breeding and recovery will decline further.
WHICH SPECIES OF RHINO IS THE MOST ENDANGERED?
There are five species of rhino surviving today – Black, White, Greater One-Horned (or Indian), Javan and Sumatran and several sub-species within these groups.
There are three species of rhino in Asia, two of which are ‘critically endangered’ the Javan and Sumatran rhino. There are only around 65 Javan rhinos left in the world and around 100 Sumatran rhinos. The Javan rhino is one of the rarest large mammals on earth and was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011.
The Greater One-Horned rhino has increased in numbers up to 3,550 from only 200 in 1900 and is the third Asian species that is listed as ‘vulnerable’. Numbers have increased due to successful conservation efforts, though the species is still poached for its horn in India and Nepal.
The remaining two species are found in Africa. The Black Rhino is ‘critically endangered’. With only around 5,000 remaining. Numbers of Black rhino dropped by a staggering 96% between 1970 and 1995 but thanks to concerted conservation efforts, their numbers are now rising.
White rhinos are classified as ‘near threatened’. There are now around 20,000 living across Africa, yet the increase in poaching levels is once again threatening these populations.
The subspecies Western Black rhino and Northern White rhinos are now extinct in the wild. The only two remaining Northern White rhinos live at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The last Northern White male, Sudan, died in March 2018 of age-related issues. You can read Helping Rhino’s heartfelt tribute to him here.
China’s Inexcusable change of Law and Quick withdrawal
For the last 25 years China has imposed a ban in the domestic trade of rhino horn and tiger bone. This means that any rhino or tiger product sold or prescribed by a medical official is done so illegally. On 29th October 2018 China’s General Office of the State Council issued a notice that is to allow a controlled trade and use in rhinoceros and tiger parts.
The notice goes on to state that “Except in special circumstances prescribed by law, the country bans all actions involving sales, purchase, use and import or export of rhinoceros, tigers and their related products.”
But importantly the report also states “Under the special circumstances, regulation on the sales and use of these products will be strengthened… Rhino horns and tiger bones used in medical research or in healing can only be obtained from farmed rhinos and tigers, not including those raised in zoos… Rhino horn and bones from dead tigers can only be used in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors recognized by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.”
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR RHINOS?
It is important to note that the State Council’s notice clearly stipulates that only horn from farmed rhinoceros within China can be used by the qualified and recognized individuals. It points out that zoo animals cannot be used under the new law, meaning that not all captive bred rhinos can be used to supply the new, legal demand.
But this would not mean it is good news for rhinos (or tigers) China claims that by making this change in the law they would be able to better control the use of wildlife parts in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and consequently reduce the demand for illegally harvested body parts of rhino and tiger.
But history tells us that even a carefully controlled legal market will not reduce demand for wild animal parts. We have consistently seen a price premium for TCM that uses wild animals. Legalizing even a potentially small market legitimizes the use of rhino horn far more than has been the case for the last 25 years and provides a loophole for the black-market to exploit.
Without doubt, any legal trade opens up the possibility of laundering illegally poached rhino horn into the legal stockpiles. This new law has the strong potential to increase the level of poaching of wild rhinos in Africa and Asia at a time when official poaching statistics are showing that things are finally improving!
Having recently been praised internationally for their moves to make illegal any domestic trade in ivory, this announcement came as a shock to many, not only in the conservation world, but within the Traditional Chinese Medicine industry too.
In a recent statement, the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture UK (ATCM) stated that all of its TCM practitioner members (over 700) do not use animal parts in their practices.
ATCM has written to Chinese Government to express their concerns over this new policy, as they also believe that the ease of ban on medical use of farmed rhino horn and tiger bone will potentially put wild animals at risk.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
Due to public outcry the Chinese Government has halted its plans to lift the ban. However, that in this day and age, a decision like that could even be rationally considered reveals how wide the divide has become between those creating the demand and those trying to save animals from becoming extinct.
The only logical way forward is to completely ban the trade of any endangered animal parts, including those animals that are “nearly” endangered.
Helping Rhinos will maintain a collaboration with organisations around the world to bring an end to the current rhino poaching crisis. Despite this announcement from China they firmly believe that the innovative approach of our projects in the field will ensure that they create a future for rhinos in their natural habitat.
ADDRESS: 50 COULSTOCK ROAD, BURGESS HILL, WEST SUSSEX RH15 9XZ
TELEPHONE NUMBER: 0044 (O)7912 346 223