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Will the African Rhino Share the Fate of the African Elephant?

Most people don’t think they are as beautiful as elephants, and they don’t have ivory tusks, but rhinos, with their distinctive horns, are one of Africa’s wonders that now may share the fate of African elephants.  The market for rhino horns, which are illegally sold at a price that rivals gold, ounce for ounce, is leading to the slaughter of these majestic creatures in unprecedented numbers.

In the first four months of 2013 alone, some 270 rhinos were killed– more than the number killed in all of 2012.  Last month, poachers slaughtered all of the rhinos remaining in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, which in 2002 contained about 300 of them.  If the killing continues at this pace, all of Africa’s remaining black rhinos and nearly all of its white rhinos could be wiped out.

Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are believed in many Asian cultures to possess curative powers. But rhino horn is primarily keratin—the same substance that forms our hair and nails—and scientifically proven to have no medicinal properties whatsoever. 

Conservationists have been working throughout Africa to protect and save the African rhino.  Anna Merz, one of the founders of the Kenyan-based  Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, an Aid for Africa member, was one of the first, and likely the first rhino conservationist.  Anna Merz has been described as the “Jane Goodall of rhinos.” Her efforts helped double the population of black rhino in Kenya during the last decade.  Merz died last month at 81, but the commitment to the rhino that she inspired at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, in the surrounding communities, and in the world will continue.  

May 5 is Cinco de Rhino—a day to spotlight the rhino and to raise awareness of the world’s diminishing rhino population.  It’s a day to celebrate the African rhino, dispel the myth of rhino horns, and commit to save the species.

 What can you do to help save the rhino? Help ensure the world understands that the only place a rhino horn belongs is on a rhino by sharing this story and your thoughts.