Sudan, A Stark Reminder,  Bringing Rhino Conservation Issues To The Forefront

On the 19th of March, the world mourned the death of one of the last three remaining northern white rhinos and only surviving male, Sudan. With the species already extinct in the wild, his death indeed brought to the forefront rhino conservation issues. We should ask ourselves, how did we get to the point where we can count the world population of such an iconic species and not use more than three fingers?

The real tragedy about the death of Sudan is in what it represents – Extinction, an unrecoverable loss! His death is a glaring reminder of why we should do all we can to protect not just Rhino’s but all endangered wildlife. We need to remind ourselves that once an animal species becomes extinct, it is gone forever. We need to think about the future generations and how our destructive actions towards biodiversity today may affect them.

Extinction is a hefty price to pay, rhino’s and other wildlife cannot afford it – and should not have to. In recent years rhino numbers have dropped dramatically due to poaching for their horn which is prized in Asian countries. In traditional Asian countries and China the rhino horn is believed to have medicinal power that can treat fevers and cardiovascular diseases.

Although extinction is a natural part of evolution, it is however occurring at a faster rate than usual and humanity has itself to blame. Today extinction has been induced through human activities such as poaching, habitat destruction, over exploitation of wildlife and political conflict. The net result is an enormous loss of wildlife resources as well as the exclusion of certain wildlife species from playing their pivotal roles within an ecosystem.

According to a population count done in Zimbabwe, in 2009, it was estimated that there were 425 black rhino and 300 white rhino country-wide on both state land and private land. Fast forward to 2018 and the rapid rate at which we are losing Rhino’s due to rampant poaching not to mention rhino deaths through natural causes, the population now could be at alarming low numbers.

At the national level, steps have been taken to protect wildlife. Legal protection has been provided to wild animals against illegal killing and exploitation under the provisions of the Parks & Wild Life Act, 1975 (PWA). In addition the PWA has also been amended and made more stringent, enhancing the punishment for offences. For example hunting or killing a Rhino which is classified as a specially protected animal under the PWA is prohibited and therefore it attracts a mandatory sentence of nine years on a first conviction and eleven years on a second conviction.
The Act also provides for forfeiture of any equipment, vehicle or weapon that is used for committing wildlife offence(s). A forfeiture order allows the State to confiscate and dispose of property that is alleged to have been used in or in connection with the commission of a serious offence that contravenes provisions of the PWA.

Yet despite this, such destruction persist every day, and efforts to address this challenge although rich in political commitment are chronically affected by lack of adequate funding or lax law enforcement or corruption. They also face threats from habitat loss and political conflict.

Today we are seeing the world taking a committed stand to conservation, symbolizing a positive future for rhino’s and wildlife. With dedicated investment and change in attitude towards the protection of endangered wildlife…their future is bright.

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