Stop Wildlife Trafficking – The Rhino Project

Elephants are the giants of the animal kingdom. However, TRAFFIC® (the wildlife trade monitoring network) estimates that approximately 55 African Elephants are poached every day!
White rhino EKZNW

The plight of the rhinoceros is often in the news. Why? – because of human greed these iconic animals are poached predominantly for their horns?

The Rhino Project

Two rhinoceros species occur in South Africa:
The White Rhinoceros – Ceratotherium simum – One of the two subspecies occurs here naturally.

© Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

The Black Rhinoceros – Diceros bicornis – One of the three extant subspecies occurs here naturally.

© Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Even though their common names refer to black and white – it has no reference to their colour. The larger White Rhinoceros has a square lip to graze the grass it requires to survive, and the Black Rhinoceros has a pointed lip to remove leaves from trees and shrubs for browsing. If you are privileged to see their spoor in the wild, you will note that the White Rhinoceros has a distinct notch in the back of its feet.

White Rhinoceros spoor © Johann Vermeulen

International Protection
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement that aims to ensure that international trade does not threaten a specie’s survival, lists the Black Rhinoceros in Appendix I and the White Rhinoceros in Appendix II.  South Africa is a signatory and has written CITES into our law. 

National Protection
In terms of the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act 10 of 2004, the Black and White Rhinoceros are listed as Threatened or Protected.

Conservation Status
According to the 2018 International Conservation Union (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species™ that lists assessed species of plants and animals into categories according to their risk of extinction: The South-eastern Black Rhinoceros is listed as Critically Endangered, and The Southern White Rhinoceros is listed as Near Threatened.

Did you know that the calf of a Black Rhinoceros normally runs behind its mother, and the calf of a White Rhinoceros normally ahead of its mother?
Apps, P. 2000. Wild Ways. Field Guide to the Behaviour of Southern African Mammals. Cape Town. Struik.

The most valued item derived from a rhinoceros is its horns.  Their horns are made up of keratin, which is found in hair, fingernails and animal hooves.  The structure of the horns resembles horses’ hoofs, turtle beaks and cockatoo bills. 

Some trafficked items derived from rhinos are listed below:

Whole horns

© GreenLaw Foundation

Carved or rounded disks / Bracelets, bangles

© Wildlife Justice Commission

Libation cups:
Small – Persians believed that these cups could detect poisoned liquids
Antique – Chinese nobles used to mark the emperor’s birthday with the gift of a carved rhino horn

© Gillian Scott-Berning

Horn offcuts and Yemeni dagger handles – these daggers were given to adolescent boys as a sign of manhood and devotion to Islam

© Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Rhino horn powder – used in traditional Chinese remedies for fever, gout and rheumatism
Rhino horn shavings – sometimes smuggled as packaging material

© GreenLaw Foundation

– Feet for stands
– Medicinal ingredients

Composition of rhino horn

Tubules on the side of a rhinoceros horn seen through a magnifier. © GreenLaw Foundation

The outer of a Rhinoceros horn seen through a 10x magnifier. © GreenLaw Foundation