Once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, black rhinos used to be a common feature of the savannah. However, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade now threaten the species’ survival.
Between 1970 and 1992, poaching caused 96 percent of black rhinos to disappear, leaving just 2,475 wild black rhinos in 1993. Since then, conservation and anti-poaching efforts have doubled the size of the black rhino population, but the species remains critically endangered. One of four subspecies, the West African black rhino, was declared extinct in 2011.
Rhinos are one of several species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, alongside elephants, tigers and slow loris. This trade, like other illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife parts, is controlled by dangerous international criminal networks, and has been linked to terrorism and the trafficking of drugs, arms and people.
What We're Doing
In partnership with the African Wildlife Foundation
(AWF), we are supporting the training and use of conservation dogs to deter wildlife trafficking.
- Trained to sniff out rhino horn and ivory, conservation dogs track and apprehend poachers at transit sites such as airports and check points with 90% accuracy. Working with the AWF, the Zoo aims to double the number of trained dogs and handlers deployed.
In partnership with the International Rhino Foundation
(IRF), we are working to stabilize a population of 10 to 20 southern black rhinos translocated from South Africa to the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana.
- By introducing the rhinos to Botswana, we aim to expand the species’ habitat range and re-establish a permanent, self-sustaining black rhino population in the region. Radio-telemetry and helicopter tracking actively monitor the rhinos and protect them from poaching. Local communities benefit as well, gaining employment as rhino scouts and monitors and through expanded eco-tourism.
In partnership with Education for Nature – Vietnam
(ENV), we are confronting the rhino horn trade in Vietnam, where a rising standard of living and economic growth contribute to increased demand for traditional medicines made from wildlife.
Rhino horn, a status symbol for those wealthy enough to afford it, is believed to help treat fever, reduce body heat, reduce toxins in the body and help treat cancer in Vietnam. Due to poaching, rhinos went extinct in Indochina in 2010. Vietnam’s first and main non-governmental organization dedicated to conservation, ENV has documented 159 cases in Vietnam involving selling, advertising, smuggling and trading rhino horn since 2010, resulting in criminals’ convictions.