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West African black rhino thought to be extinct

03/03/2007 00:00:00 news/WesternBlackRhino_HubertPlanton[1] July 2006. While four out of the six African rhino subspecies are in recovery, new surveys have failed to find any West African black rhinos, and could locate no more than 4 Northern White rhinos. The West African black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) is now thought to be extinct and numbers of the Northern White rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni). have reached an all time low in the wild. Poaching for rhino horn is the main cause in both cases.

The new estimates were provided by the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. An intensive survey of the West African black rhino did not find any sign of their continued presence in their last known ranges in northern Cameroon. “Consequently this subspecies has been tentatively declared as extinct,” said Dr Martin Brooks , AfRSG chairman . “The northern white rhino is on the verge of being lost. Restricted to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo ,ground and aerial searches have only found four animals. We continue with our efforts to locate further animals, but we must now face the possibility that this subspecies may not recover to a viable level”.

On a more positive note, Black rhino numbers have increased to 3,725, up 3.2% over the last 2 years from an all time nadir of 2,410 in 1995. The major conservation triumph continues for the Southern White rhino. from less than 50 animals a century ago, to 14,540 now.

At a meeting in Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Swaziland, sponsored by UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the AfRSG shared techniques in rhino management and reintroduction experiences. Progress was made on the creation of a rhino management group to improve cooperation between East African countries, guidelines for assisting rhino reintroductions were drawn up, and African range states provided some data to enable the AfRSG to report on rhino numbers and illegal trade to the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Poaching for rhino horn remains the primary threat to rhinos. It has been responsible for the dramatic decline of northern white rhinos since 2003. Without doubt rhinos and elephants are amongst the first species to suffer when security declines and are very vulnerable to economic and political instability.

“In a climate of declining conservation budgets,” Dr Martin Brooks said, “it is good to note that two public private partnerships are bringing generous funding and institutional support for the creation of new large and genetically viable black rhino populations in North Luangwa , Zambia , and KwaZulu-Natal , South Africa . However, such interventions are not always possible; African Range States need to strive for self-sufficiency and the integration of these flagship species and areas into their regional economies if the distribution and numbers are not to decline in future.”

Courtesy IUCN

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