Rhino Thembi is two years and one month old today, and she received the best birthday gift ever – a baby brother! Our rhino-super-mom Thandi gave birth to her second calf on 24 January 2017. Thandi survived after both her horns were hacked off in a brutal poaching attack in 2012.
Rhinos Separate From Mothers After Three Years
Rhino Thembi will stay with her mother Thandi and her little brother for a little longer and will gradually start to separate from them over the next year. Male calves tend to separate from their mothers at around two years old, while their female counterparts take a little longer. We expect that Thembi will separate from Thandi by the age of three. She will then find a territory of her own. Before she moves off, Thembi will have to feel confident that she can look after herself and defend her territory if necessary.
Rhinos Reach Sexual Maturity After Five Years
Rhino Thembi will reach her sexual maturity at around five years old and, if all goes according to plan, we will hopefully celebrate her first calf with her when she is seven or eight years old. Dr. William Fowlds said that he has seen female rhino produce their first calf as young as six years old, although it is uncommon. An exciting thought!
An international team of researchers compared genes of all living and extinct black rhinos. Over the last 200 years, 70% of the rhinos’ genetic diversity disappeared because of loss of habitat and hunting. Fewer than 5,000 remain.
Researchers were shocked by the magnitude of the oss of the black rhinos’ genetic diversity.
According to Professor Mike Bruford of Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, with climate change, disease and land use change all concurring, “biodiversity is going to need all the natural resilience it has to overcome the current extinction crisis.” First, you need enough individuals to survive. In the longer term, genetic diversity will become increasingly important explains Bruford.
Five black rhino gene pools remain. But genetically unique populations in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi, Angola and more, no longer exist. In the 1970s, black rhinos numbering around 70,000, were a common sight throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Widespread poaching in the 1980s sparked a population collapse. Losing genetic diversity makes it more difficult for a species to adapt to new conditions.
Genetics Professor DeWoody of Purdue University believes genetic diversity to be the ultimate measure of biodiversity and the key to long term conservation.
Image copyright – MIKE BRUFORD
A new approach is needed to help save the black rhinoceros from extinction, a study involving Cardiff University scientists has found.
Researchers found 70% of the rhino’s genetic diversity had been wiped out over the past 200 years due to hunting and loss of habitat. This means the small number left would be vulnerable to the same diseases.
Prof Mike Bruford said moving bulls to new parks to boost diversity could help combat this “unfolding catastrophe”. From a population in the 1970s of almost 70,000, there are now about 5,000 black rhinos in the wild – the World Wildlife Fund lists the animal as critically endangered.
The animal now only survives in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Working with colleagues from universities in South Africa, Kenya, Copenhagen and Chester, Cardiff’s team compared the genes of living and dead rhinos by visiting museums and herds in the wild. They found that 44 of 64 genetic lineages no longer exist, which poses a threat to the future of the animal.
Image copyright – GETTY IMAGES
Prof Bruford, from Cardiff University’s School of Bio-sciences, said: “The magnitude of this loss in genetic diversity really did surprise us – we did not expect it to be so profound. If you don’t have genetic diversity, you can’t evolve. “The new genetic data we have collected will allow us to identify populations of priority for conservation, giving us a better chance of preventing the species from total extinction.
“You could bring a new bull in or swap bulls between parks – you know they’re not related so you’re bringing fresh genes into the park.” Other suggestions to help conserve the black rhino includes moving animals together to make it cheaper to protect the dwindling population. The research ‘Extinctions, genetic erosion and conservation options for the black rhinoceros’ has been published in Scientific Reports.
Most rhinos’ skin is layered with subcutaneous fat used as insulation from both extreme heat in the day, to warmth during cold nights. The Indian rhino’s skin particularly is used to insulate the animal from hot days, and hangs around the creature in large folds.
All rhino skin is very thick, to protect it from damage caused by rough foliage and the occasional predator attack.
Three suspects allegedly caught red-handed with a rhino horn outside Grahamstown last year could be linked to a countrywide poaching syndicate responsible for the slaughter of more than 90 rhinos.
According to police, since the trio’s arrest in June last year there has not been a single incident of rhino poaching in South Africa involving darting.
The men’s upcoming trial will be the to use a forensic dart gun testing system – similar to that of a firearm ballistics system –to link specific darts to the guns used in poaching.
Jabulani Ndlovu, 38, and Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu, 37, who both live in Port Elizabeth, and Forget Ndlovu, 40, of George – they are not related – were apprehended at the Makana Resort outside Grahamstown for the alleged possession of a rhino horn worth an estimated R1.2-million.
The horn was cut off a white rhino bull poached on the Buckland’s Game Reserve.
In what is expected to be a gripping trial, police and prosecutors will paint a picture of a highly organised syndicate which travels the country killing and de-horning rhinos.
In an affidavit submitted to court in November, Stock Theft and Endangered Species Unit detective Captain Morne Viljoen says the men are the prime suspects in 40 rhino killings in the Eastern Cape as well as about 50 in KwaZulu-Natal, five in Limpopo and four in the Southern Cape.
While little is known about how the horn was smuggled out of South Africa, all three have made several trips to Zimbabwe in recent years.
The dart gun confiscated during the raid has already allegedly been linked to several poachings across the country in which darts and the lethal drug M99 were used.
They are the last ones of their kind and truly fascinating: Africa’s black rhinos. (posted by Hughes Ruth in Rhinos for the Future)
Unfortunately, the grey giants are often misunderstood and have a reputation for always being grumpy. But in fact, although black rhinos are solitary, they socialize with other black rhinos much more than was previously known. Females in particular like to interact with each other, and since they have overlapping home ranges, a number of females will often get together. Sometimes males also socialize with them. The animals might spend a day or two together, before going their separate ways.
A BBC documentary shows a group of black rhinos gathering at a waterhole at night. The footage shows night-time liaisons involving kisses, cuddles and a level of social interaction previously unknown in the species. The reason why we still don’t know a lot about the social life of rhinos and their interactions with each other, is because most of this behavior takes place at night when they are active.
Research shows that these rhinos have distinctive characters with various temperaments. Some animals are very relaxed and don’t mind being followed, while others will run towards any disturbance and some people previously have had to climb a tree and wait there until the black rhino moves off. Trackers and guides from conservation groups such as the Desert Rhino Trust, have been doing vital work to learn more about the endangered rhinos and to prevent poaching. They track the rhinos on a daily basis, hence getting to know their territory and routine as well as the animals’ character. By keeping an eye on the rhinos, they make it more difficult for poachers.
Those of you who have seen our powerpoint presentation will know who Thandi is—the amazing rhino who survived a brutal poaching. Now she has given birth to a second calf! The rhino is an incredibly strong species. Thandi’s success after so much terrible trauma and so many surgeries to repair her damaged face, brings hope for the survival of the rhino.
One of the few remaining rhinos at Polokwane Nature Reserve was poached 3 days after it was de-horned. It was apparently poached for the small stump left behind.
Now that our rhinos are living in the stronghold, extreme vigilance must be maintained by all to protect these precious animals. Poachers will kill even a recently de-horned animal.
In 2007, a total of 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. By 2014, that number increased 9,346% to 1,215.
In seven short years, the poaching crisis in South Africa has increased over 9,300%.
Globally, there are about 29,000 wild rhinos remaining, spread over five species. Two of these species, the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, each have less than 100 animals left. A little over a century ago, there were over half a million rhinos.
If something isn’t done to stop this crisis in the next couple of years, all wild rhinos will be gone by 2030.
Demand for horn is thrusting the rhino towards extinction. In some cultures, such as China, Vietnam, and South Korea, rhino horn is viewed as a medicine: a cure-all for deadly diseases, or an aphrodisiac. More recently, rhino horn is viewed as a status symbol and is auctioned for enormous prices.
Those who would use rhino horn as a medicine can sometimes be dissuaded by looking at the science: rhino horn is entirely made of keratin, the same protein that makes up our hair and fingernails, and has about the same medicinal properties as eating your hair. However, even this isn’t enough to stop most consumers. The demand that comes from a cultural belief in the power and mysticism of such a large animal is much harder to counter. The only thing that works with those buyers is education, and the hope that those who are educated will weigh the rhino’s lives against their belief system and choose the rhinos.
Rhino horn is a lucrative business to the people who supply it. No amount of convincing will work on them, and they counteract our education and conservation efforts at every turn.
It’s not a simple issue. This is why it’s so important to work at the source—the poachers—and not just the consumer side of the market.
But we can also work through you. The more we spread the information about what’s happening to rhinos, and the more people learn and share with each other, the better chance we have of making a difference.
With that in mind, here are some things to consider when talking about the rhino poaching crisis:
We’ve already talked about the 9,300% increase in poaching deaths from 2007 to 2014. The 2015 numbers are where things get tricky. Publicly, only 666 rhinos have been poached as of June this year. You’ll note the use of the word “publicly”. The South African government is suffering under the pressure of increasing global awareness of the crisis. Corruption is rampant there, and underreporting the numbers takes pressure off the lax, inefficient government. GCF, however, has connections to rangers, veterinarians, and animal rehab teams, all reporting numbers for 2015 that are on track to exceed 2014 by a couple hundred.
A few notes about all of these figures:
• The rhinos counted as poached include animals who were killed but left with horns intact, as well as babies who died because their mother was killed.
• The numbers for rhinos poached are for South Africa only. Global rhino losses are difficult to track.
This is why the work we do here at GCF is so important. We’re running out of time to keep these animals on Earth.
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