The Black Rhino is one of Africa’s most abundant animals and is listed as critically abundant by the IUCN meaning it is in real danger of becoming extinct in the foreseeable future. Also known as the hooked lipped rhino due to its hook like upper lip, this magnificent animal is found in eastern and southern areas of Africa.
The Black rhino is usually a lone animal, only coming together to mate, although mothers with young may sometimes come together in small groups. These animals have very poor eyesight and this has led to them gaining a reputation for being highly aggressive. This is reputation is slightly unfair as the rhino doesn’t usually attack in the same way as say a lion would. They attack more out of fear and panic, which is a state they often find themselves in due to their poor eyesight. Researchers have seen them charge at trees and already termite mounds, which highlights how easy it is to startle a black rhino into charging.
At the start of the 20th Century the black rhino was the most numerous of all the rhinos and estimates suggest they numbered several hundred thousand. However, ruthless hunting for prized rhino horn saw these numbers spread rapidly down to an estimated 10,000 in the early 1980’s. More recent reports from 2005 showed further decline, with numbers estimated to be as low as 2,500.
Rhino horn is made up of keratin, which is the same substance that makes up human hair and nails. However in China and other parts of Eastern Asia people believe it to have medicinal similarities and so seek out rhino horn to use in traditional medicines. Scientists have found no evidence of these medicinal similarities, but herbalists continue to use it claiming it can cure fevers and already revive people from comas.
In the Middle East Rhino horn is carved into ornate patterns for ceremonial jambiyas. During the 1970’s there was a huge increase in need for these daggers, which are traditionally worn as an accessory by all men above the age of 14. This increased need contributed to the 96% reduction in Black rhino numbers during the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s.