For the first time the world’s leading rhino experts have come together in Europe at Chester Zoo.
100 Zookeepers, researchers, scientists and conservationists have descended on the zoo in an effort to work out how to save the five rhino species – black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan.
Rhino numbers are dropping due to the demand for rhino horn. 2014 was the worst year for rhino poaching with 1,200 hunted in South Africa. This represented an increase of 9000% on 2007 numbers. In the past 50 years rhino numbers have decrease 97%.
Director General of Chester Zoo, Mark Pilgrim said, “As the demand and price for rhino horn grows and poachers continue to slaughter rhinos across Africa, it is imperative that everyone does all they can now to protect them.”
“Chester Zoo works with and supports multiple organisations that put huge effort into protecting rhinos in the wild but it’s also vital that we have a highly effective breeding programme in zoos. We need to have a genetically viable insurance population as, in the future, it could be what saves the species from extinction,” he added.
Mr Pilgrim will be presenting the zoo’s research into the hormones, genetics, nutrition and facilities for rhinos. Other topics discussed will include conservation, zoological breeding programs and how to stop the demand for traditional medicines made from rhino horn.
Chester Zoo is highly committed to saving rhinos and have had success breeding them with five black rhino calves and one greater one horned rhino calf born in the past seven years.
The ten black rhinos and three greater one horned rhinos housed at the zoo, “draw a lot of attention from visitors and they’re great ambassadors for the species out in the wild. Although they’re a visitor favourite, we need people to realise the huge amount of pressures that rhinos face on a daily basis due to poaching,” said Pilgrim.
“Rhinos in the wild are being killed for their horns by criminal gangs that go on to sell the horn for huge amounts of money on the black market. If these poaching and hunting pressures continue, rhinos could be extinct in the wild in just over ten years’ time.”
Today is rhino mayday hosted by Save the Rhino International. This day raises awareness of the threats faced by rhinos in the wild.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo