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The World Conservation Union (IUCN ) fears the West African black rhino may have become extinct.[singlepic=87,220,160,,right]While most subspecies of Africa’s two rhinos, the black and white rhino, continue on the road to recovery, this is not true for two of Africa’s most threatened rhino subspecies: the West African black (Diceros bicornis longipes ) and the northern white (Ceratotherium simum cottoni ).
The West African black rhino is now feared extinct and numbers of the northern white rhino have reached an all time low in the wild. In both cases, poaching for rhino horn is the main cause of their demise.
This is according to new estimates announced by the African Rhino Specialist Group (AfRSG) of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. An intensive survey earlier this year of the West African black rhino has failed to locate any sign of their continued presence in their last refuges in northern Cameroon.
“As a result this subspecies has been tentatively declared as extinct,” says Dr Martin Brooks , AfRSG chairman . “Also the northern white rhino is on the very brink of being lost. Restricted in the wild to Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo , recent ground and aerial surveys conducted under the direction of African Parks Foundation and the AfRSG have only found four animals. Efforts to locate further animals continue, but we must now face the possibility that the subspecies may not recover to a viable level,” he continued.
On a more positive note, continental black rhino numbers have increased to 3,725 as a whole, a rise of 3.2% over the last two years: this from an all time low of 2,410 in 1995. The ultimate conservation success story continues for the other white rhino subspecies, the southern white. Down to less than 50 animals a hundred or so years ago, numbers have increased to 14,540.
Poaching for rhino horn remains the primary threat to rhinos. It has been responsible for the dramatic decline of northern white rhinos since 2003. It is a truism that rhinos, like elephants, are amongst the first species to suffer once security declines, and they are particularly vulnerable to economic and political instability.