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Saving Rhinos Starts With Our Children



Like most wildlife on this planet, rhinos need protection and a voice to speak for them. This continues today more than ever, and we are committed to serving that role. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder to humanity that we need to change our relationship with the natural world. Every living creature contributes to the balanced ecosystems on which our survival depends. Upsetting these natural systems can directly affect the supply of food and water at a local level, with wider impacts on community livelihoods and even national economies. In the same sense, trading in illegal wildlife products such as rhino horn has decimated the species. It continues to drive a criminal network of poachers on the ground and traffickers who deliver these items to the black market.




Saving rhinos starts with our children



Rhinos share their habitat with a multitude of other plant and animal species. The protection of rhinos also helps protect the ecosystems on which they depend, as well as other species, including elephants, buffalo, large carnivores, and antelopes that share their habitat.


As the growing middle class in both China and Vietnam become more affluent and can afford the high cost of rhino horn, they are driving up the demand on the international black market. Rhino poaching levels hit record highs in 2015, with poachers slaughtering at least 1,300 rhinos in Africa. Six hundred and ninety one rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2017. That number slightly decreased in 2018 with 508 rhinos poached.


WWF has a long history of supporting rhino translocations with the aim to establish new populations within their former range and move animals from risk areas to safe havens. In South Africa, WWF, in partnership with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife and Eastern Cape Parks and Tourismand partners started the Black Rhino Ranger Expansion Project (BBREP) in 2003. Since its start, the project has helped successfully establish 12 new black rhino populations in safer, more spacious locations within their former range and relocated a total of 201 critically endangered black rhinos. During translocations, some rhinos are airlifted by helicopter. They are first sedated and then carefully airlifted to awaiting vehicles which take them to their new locations. Translocations reduce pressure on existing wildlife reserves and provide new territory within their former range where rhinos have a greater opportunity to increase in number. Creating more dispersed and better protected populations also helps keep rhinos safe from poachers.


Sumatran rhinoThe Sumatran rhino is the most threatened of all rhino species, with fewer than 80 surviving in fragmented sub-populations across Indonesia on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. While there are fewer Javan rhino individuals, the remaining Javan rhino all live in one site and are a healthy breeding population. The Sumatran rhino, on the other hand, all live in very small and highly fragmented populations on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia. These remaining animals are isolated in fragmented pockets of forests that prevent them breeding. The smallest rhinos on Earth, Sumatran rhinos remain in small and isolated areas, limiting reproduction in the wild. As a result, these populations have been on the decline.


Carter Ries: The South African government needs to intervene now before it is too late. It has been proven that Rhino horn has no medicinal value and it is up to the South African government to get serious about saving this iconic species. President Zuma needs to provide military support to battle the organized poachers who are laughing at how easy it is to take whatever they want from South Africa without much consequences. Stiffer penalties and tougher fines need to be handed down to anyone involved in the poaching or attempted export of illegal rhino horn and or other animal parts.


Discover what it takes to save giants! This 90-minute journey will take you by Safari Cart to behind-the-scenes areas of the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center and Elephant Valley, where you will hear firsthand conservation stories about how San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is saving elephants and rhinos around the world. Our story begins right here at the Safari Park, with our 50-year history of caring for and saving these giants. You will join the story as you get a closer look!


Located in Zimbabwe, in Southern Africa, this incredible volunteer programme has been running for over 10 years, based in a family-run conservancy, home to three generations of the Travers family. Dozens of families, with children as young as five, have got their hands and clothes dirty, and had tons of fun doing it, while learning along the way.


Children under 12 should be be prepared to work closely with their families on projects and all children under 18 must be accompanied by at least one parent. We absolutely welcome non-traditional families on all our family volunteer programmes.


But despite almost a century of studies on the Javan rhino, we still know relatively little about them. The first estimate of the rhino population in UKNP, made in 1937, put their numbers at 20 to 25. Since then, at least 36 population surveys have attempted to count the rhinos, but most have failed to account reliably for the entire population or provide much insight into the factors that drive their distribution within UKNP.


Javan rhinos range over large areas of dense and swampy rainforest, and researchers rarely see them. Instead we find tracks and dung, which help us understand the habitats that rhinos use, but are rarely good indicators of population size. More recently, scientists set up camera traps to capture images of rhinos, but without high-quality images it was hard to tell individual animals apart.


Over the past four years, I have worked as an external scientific advisor with researchers and biologists from World Wildlife Fund Indonesia and the United States, UKNP biologists, Global Wildlife Conservation and the Indonesian nongovernment agency YABI to help create a robust strategy for monitoring Javan rhinos.


My role was to work with these expert biologists to develop robust statistical methods using these video data to provide estimates of population size and distribution. First, however, we had to ensure that we could reliably identify individuals from the videos. We did this by having three independent teams identify rhinos and compare results. This led to a multi-step identification process that uses morphological features, such as sex, horn shape and position, skin wrinkles around the eyes, neck skin folds and scars.


Using our statistical model, we also found that male rhinos range over larger areas than females and that both sexes prefer low-elevation areas, often near the coastline. They almost completely avoid mountainous regions of the national park. Rhinos also prefer to be close to mud wallows, where they can spend much of a day caking their skin with mud to regulate their body temperature, ward off biting insects and remove parasites.


Rhinos have lived on earth for over 50 million years but whether they survive even 50 more years is open to speculation. Only 5 species of rhino exist today when once there were over 100 species. All 5 species- the white, black, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan are endangered. Only the white rhino with a population of 4,600 seems to be somewhat safe from extinction. In 1960, 60,000 black rhinos roamed Africa. Today only 2,500 remain in isolated populations. On the Asian continent, the greater one-horned population remains at 2,000. The Sumatran species numbers around 200 and the Javan species has fewer than 60 animals.


The black rhino is a symbol of conservation in Africa as our bald eagle is to those of us in the United States. If the black rhino were to go extinct what message would we give our children? The rhino is a large, flagship species. By striving to save the rhino, we save large expanses of habitat. By saving these habitats, we are saving many endangered species, not just the rhino.


There is now an Indonesian Rhino Conservation program (IRCP) that includes all parks with rhino populations. This program will allow funding to be used on top priority needs in top priority locations to conserve wildlife. BFR is part of this program. This allows unused funding in any given year to go through IRCP to be reallocated to these top priority locations. This allows BFR to expand funding to include such places as Way Kambas (Eastern Sumatra) that has a large population of Sumatran rhinos. Way Kambas has the 3rd or 4th largest population of Sumatran rhinos in the world and is a crucial nucleus for the survival and recovery of this species. Currently, the best use of and greatest need for the BFR funds is to be used to establish more anti-poaching teams in Way Kambas.


Together with our partners, we are committed to enhancing the survival of rhinos in the wilderness. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has a long partnership with the International Rhino Foundation as a member of their Zoo Partners Program. With funding assistance from the San Diego Zoo, the International Rhino Foundation works to protect vulnerable white rhino populations in South Africa, while also helping to develop new methods to combat and reduce poaching.


There are only two northern white rhinos remaining in the world. Consistent with our vision to lead the fight against extinction, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has made an organization-wide commitment to rescue the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. With so few animals remaining, saving the northern white rhino will require cutting-edge science and the resources of the Frozen Zoo. Researchers in our Reproductive Sciences team are developing assisted reproductive technologies, including artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and embryo transfer, using southern white rhinos as a model species that may one day serve a surrogate mother role. Meanwhile, our Conservation Genetics team is analyzing whole genome sequences of nine northern white rhinos and four southern white rhinos. The 12 northern white rhino cell lines in the Frozen Zoo will be used to develop stem cells to create northern white rhino sperm and oocytes for the generation of embryos. One day we hope to see this species saved through successful births of northern white rhino calves at the Nikita Kahn Rhino Rescue Center.


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