THE BLOG

Fewer Rhinos Were Poached Last Year, But Should We Be Celebrating?

25/01/2016 11:20 GMT | Updated 22/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Official figures released in South Africa have shown a slight decrease in the number of rhinos poached in 2015. In the first decline since 2007, officials say 1,175 rhino were poached for their horn, down from 1,215 in 2014.

In an age where White Rhino number 20,000 individuals, and Black Rhinos number just 5,000, even the slightest decline is good news for this under-threat species. Though it might be small decrease of 40 rhino, with their numbers so low, every one of these rhino counts.

But, we shouldn't forget the context: any single rhino that is poached for its horn is one too many, and 1,175 remains an eye-watering figure. Though the statistics don't yet show a long term decline, they do indicate that combined efforts to protect rhinos are beginning to have an impact.

Anti-Poaching patrols, increased inspections at airports and borders, continued trade bans and the use of anti-poaching technology are among the weapons available to conservationists and used together, with demand reduction strategies, can ensure we don't see the rhino go extinct. At the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, we know these strategies which use 'boots on the ground' work: as a result of our Anti-Poaching Teams, poaching rates fell to zero in the Kibwezi Forest thanks to regular patrols.

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As we begin 2016, we call on governments to increase these efforts and build on this momentum in the struggle to help save such an iconic species. Every individual counts; at our Orphanage in Nairobi National Park, we are caring for Maxwell, a congenitally blind Black Rhino. A statuesque bull, a result of his blindness, Maxwell won't be released into the wild as his safety could be compromised but his kin face a continual threat of being brutally killed for their horn, made of the same substance as our own fingernails.

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As the custodians of the earth, it is our duty to safeguard our wildlife and natural heritage; failure to do so is both morally reprehensible and a damning indictment on our own species.

Find out more about the work of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust at: www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org