There are 4,529 species of mammal, bird, and amphibian deemed at risk of extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Many scientists believe we are entering the sixth mass extinction the world has seen. Only, this time the extinction isn’t occurring due to natural causes, it is caused as a direct result of people. Humans are set on course to wipe out 50 percent of all living species by 2100. Poaching, habitat loss, climate change and deforestation are all leading causes of this increased rate of extinction. The illegal wildlife trade has also taken a huge toll on many species. Racing Extinction, a documentary set to release in 2015, will infiltrate the illegal wildlife trade to exhibit the destruction it is causing.
The Northern White Rhino, for example, is a species on a fast path to extinction thanks to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. Rhino horns are valued in the Black Market, as several cultures still maintain that the horns have medicinal value. Sadly, one of the six remaining individuals of Northern White Rhino died on Sunday at the San Diego Zoo safari park. Angalifu was about 44 years old and died of old age. The death of Angalifu leaves Nola, an elderly female, as the last Northern White Rhino in a U.S. zoo. There is another elderly female at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic. Two females and the last remaining male live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.
Unfortunately, attempts to mate Angalifu with Nola were unsuccessful. And recent attempts to have the the male mate with the two females in Kenya have been unsuccessful as well. In Vitro fertilization is the next step being considered to keep this magnificent species alive.
The Southern White Rhino is one success story in conservation. This subspecies of rhino was considered extinct for much of the 19th-century. Their populations were as low as 20 individuals. After about 100 years of conservation efforts, though, the number of Southern White Rhinos is near 20,000 individuals. Loss of habitat and continued poaching add stressors that may make it impossible for rhinos to ever see the success they had centuries ago. We can only hope that the Northern White Rhino can make a comeback similar to their sibling species from the south. After officially losing the Western Black Rhino to extinction earlier this year, it would be devastating to lose yet another species of Rhino in such a short amount of time.
Image source: Drake Reed/Flickr