Rhino Conservation

Rhinoceros are Walking Targets.


To poachers, black rhinos are walking targets, illegally killed for their horns. In traditional Chinese medicine, rhino horn was believed to cure everything from fever to cancer. Today, poaching continues because of the interest in purchasing horn as a symbol of wealth and well-being in China and Vietnam.

As the price of rhino horn on the black market has surpassed the price of gold, poachers have become more organized and are harder to stop. Poaching has now reached critical levels. From 2009 through 2012, nearly 1,300 black rhinos were killed. In 2012, 668 wild rhinos were killed in South Africa alone, averaging almost two rhinos killed daily.

As of February 2013, there were 5,055 black rhinoceros and 20,405 white rhinoceros in Africa. While the populations have increased slightly in the last few years, continued increase in poaching year after year could cause a tipping point as soon as 2015, when numbers may start to decline. A key to survival has been good biological management to encourage rapid breeding plus good law enforcement. Without the latter, rhinos would be in a much worse position.

Wild Population Numbers: 5,055 black rhinoceros, 20,405 white rhinoceros in Africa
IUCN Status: Critically Endangered
Population Trend - Increasing

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What's Being Done?

People around the world are working to protect black rhinos. In some areas, anti-poaching guards protect a few remaining individuals day and night.

Southern Kenya is home to only a few of the remaining wild black rhinos in Africa. In this area, rhinos are under close watch by wildlife guards and game scouts. Through our Quarters for Conservation program in 2012-2013, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo supported the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF). AWF recruits, trains, and equips wildlife scouts who protect rhinos from poachers. Wildlife scouts are familiar with landscapes, wildlife and community members. As insiders, they are able to quickly identify any suspicious activity. They monitor rhinos — and other wildlife — and work with local authorities, like Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), to help them apprehend poachers and even identify would-be poachers. The funding from Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, awarded in May 2013, is helping to build a game scout training camp in southern Kenya. This will enable AWF to prepare more community game scouts to prevent poaching and serve as liaisons between wildlife and local communities. To learn more about African Wildlife Foundation’s efforts to protect rhinos, visit: http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/rhinoceros

Harmless tracking devices are implanted in living rhinos’ horns to monitor movement and catch criminals if they are poached. Sometimes rhinos are painlessly dehorned by veterinary teams to deter poachers from killing them.

In 2010, five rhinos in South Africa's North West province have been fitted with a GPS device to help protect them from poachers. Through satellite technology, the rhinos can be tracked on a regular basis and alarms may be set to notify guards when rhinos are moving quickly or stop moving for more than six hours. An alarm also sounds if the chip goes outside of the area of the game reserve. A reaction team can quickly track and reach the rhino when an alarm goes off.  Learn more about the rhino horn GPS project.

In other areas, some rhinos have been dehorned in the hopes that without the valuable horn, poachers would leave them alone. Namibia was the first country to dehorn rhinos in an effort to protect them. Between 1989 and the early 1990s, dehorning and a rapid increase in anti-poaching efforts significantly reduced poaching. In Namibia, not a single dehorned rhino was poached. There have been other successful cases in countries across Africa. However, there are also cases where dehorning did not prevent the poaching of rhinos; they were killed anyway, possibly because of the small amount of horn regrowth that may have occurred. For dehorning to be effective, it must be coupled with security and monitoring efforts. For more information on rhino dehorning efforts, visit: http://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/issues_for_debate/de-horning.

When necessary, rhinos have even been moved from high-risk areas to safe locations.

In South Africa, where rhino poaching is the highest, a new technique has been used – rhino relocation. This involves rhinos being moved from a poaching-prone area and released in more secure reserves. Under close veterinary attention, rhinos are darted and anesthetized, then securely and carefully strapped and airlifted out of their original habitat. Airlifting in particular allows darted rhinos to be quickly removed from otherwise inaccessible terrain. The trip only lasts about 10 minutes, and then they are carefully examined, woken up and driven to the new location. For more information, see this National Geographic Article: When Rhinos Fly

For more information on the rhino translocation project through WWF, visit http://www.wwf.org.za/what_we_do/species/black_rhino/

Watch a video about moving rhinos by helicopter:


Globally, conservation organizations are working to strengthen anti-poaching laws, while others strive to decrease demand for rhino horn through community education and social pressure.

The rhino horn trade is unique in that the killing is occurring thousands of miles away in Africa, where Vietnamese nationals have been connected to both illegal hunting and smuggling of rhino horns destined for markets back in Vietnam.  Organizations like Education for Nature - Vietnam are working to educate the people of Vietnam and change behaviors of those who may consider purchasing rhino horn.

Another awareness campaign, Rhino Reality, is working to end the demand for rhino horn in Asia. This group is collaborating with conservation groups in China and Vietnam to bring Asian people of influence on special fact-finding safaris to Africa, as well as other awareness campaigns. Their goal is to create mind-shifts that will end the demand for rhino horn in Asia.


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What You Can Do to Help Rhinos (click expand)

  1. Don't buy items made from rhinoceros horn (Asian dagger handles, medicinal powders)

  2. Take the Global Pledge for Wildlife, and spread the word! Show that you are a champion for wildlife! By signing this pledge, you promise to never knowingly purchase or consume products made from endangered species. After signing the pledge, share it with your friends and family through Facebook or Twitter so they can sign the pledge as well.

  3. Consider taking a once-in-a-lifetime African safari, helping to make rhinos more valuable alive than dead.

  4. Share this webpage cmzoo.org/blackrhinos with friends and family.  Share
    Encourage them to take the time to learn about the rhino poaching crisis like you have.

  5. Donate to support rhino conservation efforts. Any of the organizations listed below are credible and would appreciate your support.

Field Conservation Work:

Awareness Campaigns surrounding the poaching issue:

To learn more about black rhinos, visit: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/6557/0

Map of black rhino range: http://maps.iucnredlist.org/map.html?id=6557

Discover more about the African rhino poaching crisis, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZxgHik8uI0

Also view “Rhinos Under Threat” video below - (not recommended for children)