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Monday, August 20, 2012

Make saving the rhino priority one

 

 
 
Tanzania which leads in Africa and in some cases in the world in offering a rich variety and abundance of wild life, faces the risk of losing it all, if it does not seriously face up to and remove the threats to the survival of the species.
A lot has been written on the worrying goings on in the sector, especially with regard to the low capacity to protect the animals in the national parks, not to mention conservation of its forests.
For a long time now, we have been reading about the efforts being made to protect the rhino, now under the threat of extinction, though it once boasted of a population of over 70,000 on the continent.
Indeed statistics given by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Khamis Kagasheki show how difficult it has been for authorities to put a stop to the massacre of the animal, hunted mainly for its horn, highly sought after in the oriental world for traditional medicine.
Kagasheki explained that during the 1960s, it was estimated that there were about 70,000 black rhinos in Africa, of which 10,000 were in Tanzania, the largest concentrations in the continent.
But speaking during a recent ceremony to receive three black rhinos from the British High Commissioner to Tanzania, Diane Corner, the minister said by 1984, Tanzania's rhino population had been reduced to around 3,000 and less than 100 animals by 1990.
No wonder then that in a bid to replenish the species, donors such as Damian Asinall and Amos George of the Aspinall Foundation and Port Lympne Wild Animal Park have come to the rescue of the country that once boasted of such a huge number of rhinos.
It is true that Tanzania is not alone in the near-impossible battle to save the rhino hunted down by criminal gangs backed by oriental groups with big money.
It is reported that there is a growing demand for rhino horn in Asia, with a kilo on the illegal market, fetching up to $66,000 (around 105m/-).
What is more the gangs have resorted to using the cell phone and a GPS to track and gun down the rhinos, undoing the conservation efforts on the African continent which had boosted white rhino population to 20,700 and black to 4,800.
It is said that they are even using helicopters to make sure that their evil assignment is executed within a short time.
It is thus difficult to see how the rhinos can flourish again in this dangerous environment. Indeed minister Kagasheki admits that poaching poses a serious challenge to efforts to grow back their population in the country’s national parks.
A renowned zoologist and conservationist Prof Hosea Kayumbo has urged the government to keep the few surviving rhinos in zoos, warning that they will disappear in the near future if no such action is taken.
Given their low birth rate and the threat of its most deadly predator – the poacher - their continued existence at best lies in the artificial, but hopefully a more secure environment of the zoo, as recommended by Prof Kayumbo.

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