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95% of the world's rhinos have been lost in the past 40 years
The rhino has existed on earth for over 50 million years. As mega-grazers, rhinos have a critical impact on the ecosystem - by clearing vegetation, maintaining grasslands, reducing fire hazards, fertilizing soil, and dispsersing and germinating seeds. A mature rhino has no natural predator - except for humans.
Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine believed to cure fevers, headaches, skin diseases, heart and liver trouble, and verility - though most experts question the efficacy. In Vietnam, rhino horn is believed to help improve sexual competency, relieve fever, protect from evil spirits, and even be a magical cure for cancer - none of which has been proven by modern medical research.
In 1975, the first international ban on the commercial trade in rhino products was enacted, though some countries still allow trade in live rhinos and trophy hunting. In 1993, the Chinese government banned the trade and use of rhino parts but rapidly growing economies fuel demand for rhino horn in Asia. Most horns leave Africa for China and Vietnam, the biggest markets for rhino products. A single horn can fetch as much as $200,000 USD.
Poaching is one of the greatest threats to their survival. Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are made of keratin (the same material as your hair and nails).
Today, only 5 rhino species remain and all are listed as endangered or vulnerable. 2/3 of the world's rhinos live in South Africa, the poaching epicenter of the world. According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, a total number of 668 rhinos were poached in 2012 - almost two a day, on average.
If poaching continues at current rates, rhino populations will become unsustainable and even more species will be lost to extinction.
Via our public service announcements and short form documentary pieces, WildAid is working to educate consumers and reduce the demand for rhino horns worldwide. Addressing the demand for rhino products is fundamental to ensure the rhino's survival.
WildAid is developing a multi-faceted political/consumer awareness campaign in partnership with African Wildlife Foundation, while looking to provide some emergency support to law enforcement efforts. The campaign is set to launch globally this year while targeting markets in China and Vietnam, specifically.
WildAid worked with illustrator Steven Womack to tell the story of Izzy the Rhino, the 6 y/o rhino found killed in South Africa in August 2011, as reported by the Guardian. Though poachings are tragically common, this was one of the few times the rhino had a name -- Izzy -- and a story. Though this story reads like a fable, parental discretion is advised.