Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Animals on the edge: Rhinos

The trade in rhino horn has been banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) since 1980, but poaching still poses the greatest threat to the species. Rhino horn commands a high price in parts of Asia, especially China, where it is used as a medicine for rheumatism, arthritis and fever. Indian rhino horn is particularly sought after.Rhinos are poached for other reasons too. Rhino horn is also sold as a decorative material. For example, it is used for the carved handles on ceremonial daggers (Jambiyas) worn in some Middle Eastern countries. There is also a lucrative trade in rhino hides and meat.There are two ways to stop poaching. The first is to protect the rhinos by creating reserves with armed patrols to try to prevent poachers getting access to the animals. The second is to reduce demand through outreach educational programmes aimed at traditional medicine practitioners and their patients.

Civil Disturbance
War diverts funds from conservation. High levels of poverty in affected areas increase the likelihood that people will turn to poaching to support their families.In Nepal, the Maoist incursion had a knock-on effect on wildlife protection, and hard-won progress in the preservation of the Indian rhino was jeopardised. (Political changes since January 2007 could help improve the situation.)Unrest in African countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda has taken a heavy toll on rhino populations since the 1960s.

Habitat Loss
Rhinos and other large animals need a sizeable area to support them. If people encroach on their territory (by clearing forests for agriculture or development), the animals are forced into ever smaller pockets. This fragmentation usually results in a shortage of food and a limited gene pool for breeding. Efforts are being made to create wildlife corridors to link remaining rhino areas so the animals are no longer isolated.It is widely recognised that conservation measures work best when the local people are given responsibility for managing wildlife and receive the income from associated tourism. If people are forced to compete with wildlife for scarce resources, human needs will always win out.Another issue associated with habitat loss is that large animal species end up sharing ever smaller areas. It is common for elephants and rhinos to clash with one another if forced into close proximity.

Article Courtesy: BBC

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