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It’s been 7 long years since the last West African black rhino was spotted in its Cameroonian habitat, and has consequently been essentially confirmed extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, a publication that highlights species in danger of extinction worldwide.
The West African black rhino was first declared extinct in 2011, and all subsequent annual reviews in the Red List have erased all hopes that just maybe there could be one or two West African black rhinos out there.
Like many other species, the West African black rhino is believed to have been poached to extinction, as northern Cameroon is a place frequented by armed groups that crisscross the country from neighboring countries, especially Chad and Central African Republic. This, coupled by weak policies in conservation, has seen the number of rhinos plummet across Asia and Africa.
Rhinos are hunted for their horns, which are used in Yemen and Oman as dagger handles; in Asian markets, the horns are ground to make traditional medicines, as they are believed to be an aphrodisiac that also contain anti-cancer properties. Because they are composed of keratin, they are as medically significant as your hair and nails.
With the West African black rhino gone, attention now shifts to conserving what little remains of other rhino subspecies, especially the northern white rhino, of which only 7 exist in the world. 4 of these are confined with Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Other rhino species that are in danger of going extinct include the Javan and Sumatran rhinos.
Besides rhinos, there are other animals and plants that are either critically endangered, including more than 60 plant species in Madagascar.
Given the rise in poaching incidences across the continent, the extinction of the West African black rhino sub-species should be a wakeup call to all governments to increase conservation efforts, and in a more coordinated effort, to ensure the survival of the remaining flora and fauna, especially the mega fauna.
By Matengo Chwanya