Conservation News: Rhinos and Black Bears

2015 Rhino Poaching Numbers 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that over 1,300 rhinos were poached across Africa in 2015, a record since 2008.

“The number of African rhinos killed by poachers has increased for the sixth year in a row with at least 1,338 rhinos killed by poachers across Africa in 2015,” ICUN said in a statement. Up to 6,000 rhinos have been killed since 2008, though scientists fear that the number is actually much higher.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the trade of rhino horns in 1977. This international treaty was set up in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and poaching and to ensure that trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild.

However, South Africa banned poaching only recently, in 2008, despite being home to 20,000 rhinos, approximately 80% of the global rhino population. Globally, there is about 25,000.

Since South Africa’s banned poaching and began fighting to save the rhinos, conservationists noted that poachers have been much more aggressive than before. In 2007, only 13 were poached and the numbers have exponentially increased since. Out of the estimated approximate of 1,300 rhinos killed this year, about 1,175 were poached in South Africa.

rhino-dehorn-by-brent-stirton
De-horning procedure on a South African reserve. Brent Stirton

ICUN blames the continuing demand from Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam, to be driving the rhino poaching. The belief that rhino horns have medicinal properties is fed by increasingly sophisticated international crime networks to gain a profit. Typically grounded up into powder, the horns are believed to have the ability to cure cancer and other such diseases. Because of this, it is highly sought after and has become one of the world’s most expensive commodities. Worth more by weight than gold or diamonds, one kilo of rhino horn fetches about $60,000.

Wildlife crime, according to WWF, is the fourth largest global illegal trade, after drugs, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.

Despite all this, there are some positives.

The rate of increase in poaching has fallen slightly. In South Africa, numbers dropped since last year. About 1,215 rhinos were killed in 2015; 1,175 were killed in 2014. This is the first time since 2007 that numbers have dropped.rhinos-adapt-352-1

Dr. Richard Emslie from ICUN’s African Rhino Specialist Group, says “When poaching started to escalate in 2007 we saw year after year of exponentially increasingly poaching. But over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a decline in the rate of increase.”

He described it as an encouraging trend, especially since South Africa has reduced the number of rhinos slaughtered from last year.

However, this is decrease has been offset by neighboring countries, Namibia and Zimbabwe. The number of rhinos slaughtered in Namibia quadrupled in the last two years and Zimbabwe has doubled over the same period.

More than 1300 Rhinos Poached in Africa in 2015

Rhino poaching: Another Year, Another Grim Record

Rhino Poaching Numbers Fall in South Africa in 2015

Louisana Black Bear Off the List

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service recently declared the Louisiana black bear, the inspiration for the teddy bear, off the Endangered Species List on March 10, 2016 due to its recovery. Since the existing 150 when it was put on the list, numbers have grown to an estimate of up to 750.

One of the 16 subspecies of the American black bear, the Louisiana black bear is the state mammal for Louisiana and lives only in Louisiana, East Texas, and western Mississippi.

The two largest threats of the black bear were hunting and deforestation. They were subjected to hunting since the late 1800s and hunting became popular in the early 1900s.By 1980, more than 80% of its habitat was modified or destroyed so on January 7, 1992, the bear was listed as threatened within its native range.

Since then, voluntary landowner-incentive-based habitat restoration programs and environmental regulations resulted in significant habitat gains and stopped the loss of forested lands in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial River Valley. A total of 485,000 acres of forests were restored.

Neighborhood BearHowever, the Louisiana black bear rose to fame after one bear’s encounter with President Theodore Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was a known big-game hunter. Aided by former slave and Confederate cavalryman Holt Collier, he was unable to locate a bear until one of his assistants found one that was injured by the tracking dogs. The president was urged on to shoot the bear who was tied to a tree. But Roosevelt refused as he thought it was unsportsmanlike.

This refusal spread to the media and in the Washington Post posted a cartoon depicting the scene. In turn, a New York store put two stuffed bears, called “Teddy’s bears” in the window. After Roosevelt gave permission to use the name, teddy bears became an international favorite for children.

Despite losing some protections by being declared off the list, the Louisiana black bear will continued to be monitored by the government; however, it is expected that there won’t be an immediate return to hunting the animal.

FWS: Louisiana Black Bear

Louisiana Black Bear Removed from Endangered Species List

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