Even though they once roamed all across several countries in Central Africa, today there are only two northern white rhinos left. Najin and Fatu, both female rhinos, live under 24-hour surveillance in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. You might be wondering how this ended up happening, and the answer actually goes back over a hundred years. It’s all because of northern white rhino poaching.
Roots in Colonial Era
The historical decline of the white rhino population across Africa goes back to the colonization of the African continent. In what is known as the Scramble for Africa, European powers invaded and occupied most of the continent between 1881 and 1914. During this period, the people and land were exploited to satisfy the economic needs of the ruling empires. This, combined with European hunting traditions and the onset of modern capitalism, led to excessive poaching and uncontrolled hunting throughout the era. Due to their peaceful nature and their poor eyesight, rhinos were relatively easy to hunt. Although rhino population numbers didn’t reach the lows they would a few decades later, this represented the first drastic decline in the number of wild rhinos across Africa.
Modern White Rhino Poaching
During the twentieth century, northern white rhino poaching was mainly centered around hunting them for their horns. These are highly prized components of Asian medicine, where they are ground into fine powder or turned into tablets. These are used to treat strokes, convulsions, nosebleeds, and fevers. However, there is no scientific evidence that can back the claims that rhino horns have any sort of medicinal value, which makes the loss of animal lives all the more tragic. This high demand, along with an ongoing civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, allowed for a lot of highly organized poaching syndicates to emerge and to operate unchecked.
Beyond the perceived medicinal value, rhino horns also became prizes to be had and displayed by rich elites across the world, a tradition stemming back to colonial times. This meant that there could be a lot more money funneled into poaching operations, allowing for more advanced technology to be implemented. The use of night-vision equipment, helicopters, and silenced weapons made it even harder to enforce anti-poaching laws, leading to the crisis we are experiencing today. While there is still a relatively population of over 17,000 Southern White Rhinos across South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda, there are only two known Northern White Rhinos left in the world, both in captivity.
Help Save the Northern White Rhino From Extinction
Even if northern white rhinos are effectively extinct in the wild, there is still an opportunity to reverse their total extinction. For the first time in history, the necessary technology exists to reverse biological extinction using artificial insemination and in vitro gestation. However, this is a very expensive operation, which is why scientists need money in order to perform this procedure and save the subspecies from disappearing forever. Time is of the essence, so if you are interested in helping reverse the extinction of the northern white rhino, use our website to donate what you can.