After nearly seven years of no sightings, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared Africa’s western black rhino extinct. As rhino populations have plummeted over the past century, mostly due to hunting and poaching, the future looks bleak for the rest of these majestic African creatures. However, not all hope is loss. If conservation efforts can be implemented and enforced, rhino populations can rebound.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the western black rhino was one of four subspecies of black rhinoceros. The subspecies was most often found in the savannas of West Africa. They weighed in at approximately 1,700 to 3,000 shocking pounds, and if given the chance they could live to be 40 or 50 years old.

The largest threats to remaining rhinos include hunting, poaching and habitat loss.  All of these threats are directly linked to human activity and can be directly solved by human intervention.

The sick obsession with hunting these iconic animals has even resulted in some ridiculous notions. For example, the Dallas Safari Club recently held an auction to raise money to protect the rhinos by auctioning off the opportunity to hunt and kill one rhino!

Poachers are even worse as they continue to increase their illegal activity as they kill for the rhino’s horns.  This year alone, 746 rhinos have been killed by poachers, an increase on last year’s total of 668. Poaching has increased by an astonishing 5,000 percent since 2007! The reason for this increase is directly related to the endangered species black market and consumerism in Asia. The upcoming documentary Gambling on Extinction illustrates the horrible consumer driven demand for the death of rhinos, tigers and elephants.

Other species of rhino are also on the brink of extinction. IUCN has warned that Africa’s northern white rhino and Asia’s Javan rhino are close to extinction because of poaching. Enforcement of conservation efforts have to be actively pursued to prevent the extinction of any more rhinos.

In regards to the extinction of the western black rhino, the chair of the IUCN species survival commission, Simon Stuart said to CNN, “The situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.”

Where conservation methods have been introduced, rhino populations are actually on the rise. The southern white rhino populations have gone from less than 100 in the 19th century to over 20,000 rhinos today.

Jane Smart, director of IUCN”s global species program told CNN, “We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”

It might be too late to save the western black rhino but lets not sit back and idly wait for the rest of the rhino species to disappear. Support world-wide conservation efforts like Save the Rhino or even make a symbolic rhino adoption through the World Wildlife Fund.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons