The death of one of the four remaining northern white rhinos has further stoked fears that the subspecies is doomed for extinction. (Nat Geo News)
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.
- Take a look at the different categories of endangered species. Under which category does the northern white rhinoceros fall?
- The northern white rhino is extinct in the wild. The remaining three animals live in a 700-acre enclosure at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. There, they are watched over by armed guards 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Why are northern white rhinos so critically endangered?
- Poaching has ravaged the population. White rhinos are hunted primarily for sport and their valuable horn, which is used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. Learn more about rhino poaching here.
- Rapid habitat loss due to human activity has also put the animals at risk. Human activity includes development, agriculture, and civil wars that devastate the environment.
- It’s important to remember that white rhinos were never as numerous as some of their fellow savanna grazers such as wildebeests or zebras. In the 1960s, scientists think there were about 2,000 northern white rhinos, with populations ranging over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Twenty years later, the population had shrunk to 15. Today, 45 years later, it’s shrunk to three.
- What steps have conservationists already taken to help preserve a population of northern white rhinos? How have conservation efforts helped the northern white rhino’s sister species, the southern white rhino?
- According to Nat Geo News, scientists have already harvested sex cells from the remaining northern white rhinos and are planning in-vitro fertilization using a southern white rhino surrogate mother. That effort is expected to take more than a decade.
- According to Nat Geo News, “conservation efforts by the South African government have helped the [southern white rhino] rebound to a population of around 20,000, through breeding and relocating rhinos, as well as allowing controlled sport hunting, which is controversial but has encouraged some landowners to raise rhinos.”
- “The ultimate solution to all of this is to diminish demand in the countries which demand these products [rhino horns],” says Richard Vigne, the CEO of the the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. In the meantime, take a look at this video to see how the conservancy is working to protect its white rhinos today.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy: Northern White Rhinos