This Wildlife Wednesday, learn about the black rhino – and why one conservation effort is coming under fire.
Welcome to Wildlife Wednesday! Today, we’re talking black rhinos. They’ve been the topic of much media discussion lately, as a controversial effort to raise money for the rhinos is ruffling feathers faster than a speeding bullet.
Black rhinos bask mainly in the sunny savannahs and grasslands of Africa.
Black rhino trivia
- When a group of black rhinos gets together, they are—appropriately—called a crash.
- Both black and white rhinos are actually grey. They’re distinguished not by colour, but by lip shape. Black rhinos use their pointed lips to munch on leaves and pick fruit from bushes; white rhinos have wide, square-shaped lips suited to grazing on grass. Who knew?
- Black rhinos have two horns, the biggest of which can grow up to five feet long. The horns are made not of bone, as I always thought, but rather of keratin—just like our hair and fingernails!
Why they’re threatened
Black rhinos are critically endangered, with their numbers having dwindled to about 5,055. Poachers are the number-one threat, which is pretty sad given that black rhinos are also preyed on by big cats, wild dogs, and crocodiles. Asian medicine has historically prized rhino horns. Although made of the same stuff as human fingernails, the horns have been said to possess unicorn-like healing properties from curing erectile dysfunction to easing headaches.
Black rhinos in the news
An unconventional conservation effort is currently in the works. The Dallas Safari Club plans to hold an auction next year that will raise an estimated $1 million for the Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, the highest bidder wins … the chance to legally hunt and kill a black rhino.
With one to three rhinos killed daily by poachers, the club’s controversial message seems sure to backfire in the form of bad press. Concerned conservationists—from the Humane Society of the US to Stephen Colbert—are already taking aim at auctioneers. If you’d like to learn more about the rhinos’ plight and how you can help (without shooting anything), check out rhinos.org.