Whilst the white rhino remains one of Africa’s greatest conservation success stories, that of the black rhino is bleak and unforgiving – from a population decline at the hands of European hunters and settlers in the 20th century, to an ongoing mass killing fuelled by the illicit rhino horn trade.
Desperate to get their hands on the animals’ horns, poachers kill an estimated 1,000 rhinos each year. Worth USD $14,000 – $21,500 per kilogram – the horns are a precious commodity on the black market. The biggest demand comes from China, Vietnam, and Yemen where the horn is traditionally believed to have many powerful uses – ranging from an aphrodisiac to a cure for illnesses like headaches, fever, cancer and even impotence. More recent studies have shown that the horn is being used as a symbol of status among the immensely wealthy.
Between 1960 – 1995, the discovery that black rhino numbers dropped by a staggering 98% to 2,500 galvanised those on the front line to act. Since then, we’ve witnessed an immense revival of black rhinos from the brink of extinction. However, the black rhino is still considered to be critically endangered, and a lot more work is needed to increase the numbers to even a fraction of what they once were. Wildlife crime, in this case, poaching and black-market trafficking of rhino horn, continues to plague the species and threaten their recovery.