November 8, 2013
Western Black Rhino Officially Declared Extinct
The western black rhino is now officially extinct, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The world's largest conservation network had considered the rhino, last seen in 2006, "critically endangered" up until it made the official declaration earlier this week.
"Given the wildlife poaching taking place, lack of political will and conservation effort by Cameroon conservation authorities in the past, and increasing illegal demand for rhino horn and associated increased commercial rhino poaching in other range states, it is highly probable that this subspecies is now extinct,” said a statement on the IUCN’s official page for the animal.
The IUCN added that Africa's northern white rhino is "teetering on the brink of extinction" while Asia's Javan rhino is "making its last stand” against human activities.
"In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented," said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission, in a statement to CNN.
"These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction," he added.
The conservation network noted that conservation efforts have benefited the southern white rhino, increasing their numbers from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to approximately 20,000 today.
The IUCN’s latest update to its Red List of Threatened Species reviewed more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25 percent of mammals on the list could become extinct in the near future. The organization also looked at various plant species under threat of going extinct.
Regional populations of Chinese fir, once prolific throughout China and Vietnam, are being threatened by agriculture, and an Asian yew tree (Taxus contorta) that is used in the making of a chemotherapy drug has been reclassified as "endangered,” according to the updated IUCN Red List.
With respect to marine life, the IUCN said over around 62 percent of tuna species are now "threatened" or "near threatened." Many of 26 recently-identified amphibians, such as the 'blessed poison frog' and 'summers' poison frog,' are now considered vulnerable or endangered, the IUCN said.
"This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world," Jane Smart, director of IUCN's global species program said in a statement. "We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever."
The reclassification of the western black rhino comes after news that a safari hunting group out of Texas is auctioning off a permit to kill one of the 4,000 remaining black rhinos in Namibia, with the proceeds from the auction ironically going toward conservation efforts for the endangered animal.
"First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino," said Ben Carter, executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, which is holding the auction early next year. Despite what could be seen as noble intentions, the Humane Society of the United States took issue with the auction.
"The world is seeing a concerted effort to preserve the very few black rhinos and other rhinos who are dodging poachers' bullets and habitat destruction," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the humane society."The last thing they need are wealthy elites from foreign lands coming in to kill them for their heads."