World Environment News

Poachers said pushing Asian rhinos to extinction

Date: 15-Aug-02
Country: SWITZERLAND

Latest surveys show there are only 2,900 of the horned animals left in their one-time extensive range from Pakistan, across northern India and down through southeast Asia into Vietnam and Indonesia, the body said.

At least 86 had been killed by poachers in the past four years, mainly in India and Nepal - 15 of them in a recent five-month spate of poaching in Nepal.

"There is no room for complacency in our battle to save this species," said specialist Elizabeth Kemf in a new WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) report: "Wanted Alive: Asian Rhinos in the Wild".

"The Asian rhino will only be saved from extinction if we can reduce the pervasive ongoing demand for traditional Asian medicine, and restore its shrinking and fragmented habitat."

Poachers sell rhino horns, hooves and other body parts to syndicates producing powders and ointments, widely popular across Asia, which are claimed to cure a variety of illnesses and increase sexual potency in men.

The WWF report said that of the three species surviving in Asia, the one-horned Javan rhino was the most threatened - especially in Vietnam, where at most eight were left. Another recent study said this number was down to three.

In Indonesia, the Javan variety was down to 60, while the two-horned Sumatran rhino was down to 300 in Indonesia and Malaysia, its main remaining habitat. Both are on the United Nations' Red List of highly endangered species.

In India and Nepal, the remaining 2,400 Greater One-Horned rhinos are under pressure not just from poachers but also from land clearance for farming and logging which reduces their habitat to small, isolated forest areas.

The WWF said the African rhino, a two-horned variety which unlike the Asian forest-and-mountain dwelling variety lives mainly on savannah land, now totalled around 11,000 out of tens of thousands more at the start of the last century.

Most endangered was the Northern White Rhino, which lives largely in conflict zones in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, although there were nearly 8,500 of its cousin, the Southern White Rhino in a range from Kenya to South Africa.

The slightly darker Black Rhino, which shares a similar range, totals around 2,600.

Dozens of species of rhinos once ranged side-by-side across much of the world and ancient skeletons have been found in England as well as Asia and Africa. They are also portrayed on 30,000-year-old cave drawings in France.

Reuters
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