Rhinoceros poaching remains a problem

8. March 2017 | categories: Datajournalism

Yesterday it became known that poachers in the French zoo of Thoiry killed a rhinoceros bull with three bullets and sawed off one of its horns. Already two years ago I reported about rhinoceros poaching at the NZZ during my internship (Umgebremsete Jagd auf Nashörner). For current reason I’ll give you a short update here.

In South Africa, the rhinoceros population of white rhinos had risen from 3234 in 1984 to 18933 in 2012. Due to poaching, the population has now decreased slightly for the first time to 18413 in 2015, and the total population of white rhinoceroses has also decreased for the first time from 20429 to 20378 animals.

South Africa’s black rhinoceroses are no better. There, too, the population has decreased from 2068 to 1893 individuals. At least the other countries were able to compensate for this, which led to an increase in the global population from 5081 to 5250 animals.

The number of rhinos has remained stable at 3264 animals. Fortunately, the Java rhinoceroses have increased from 40 to 64 rhinoceroses, although it is questionable whether the number of 40 is correct or whether some individuals of this species were sighted later. In any case, the number remains extremely low and extinction is far from being averted. The stock of Sumatra rhinoceroses has fallen dramatically. Whereas in 2012 there were still 175 animals, by 2015 there were only 76 in 2015 and thus only slightly more individuals than the Java rhinoceros. It is quite possible that our grandchildren only know these two species stuffed in the museum and from earlier documentations.

Although the number of rhinos in South Africa has decreased slightly in 2015 (1175) compared to 2014 (1215), it is still frighteningly high. The poaching doesn’t stop because the rhino horn is worth more than gold in some Asian countries. This is because of superstitious beliefs that the horn would help against diseases and increase potency.

Alex Rübel, director of Zurich Zoo, writes on request that they have already tightened security measures some time ago. However, they do not have rhinos at the moment [The rhinos moved to England in September 2015 because of a rebuilding].

Asked why poaching dares to poach in a European zoo, Rübel says: “Of course, this kind of poaching always depends on how easy it is to poach.” The zoo in France is a very large zoo in the country. In their rhinoceros project in northern Kenya, not a single rhinoceros has been poached for the last two years. However, it is the case that poaching there would have to accept being shot directly if they were caught. Of course, in a European zoo there is no need to be afraid of that.


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The newest numbers are from the CoP17 Report.