30 June, 2009

Uganda: after decades a baby rhino is born!

'Nandi'! That's how she is called. The ten year old rhino has just given birth. Due to instability and wars, for decades now, rhinos - which were completely wiped out in Uganda in the 70s - have never given birth in Uganda. Southern White rhinos that are now kept in sanctuaries in Uganda, were all imported from Kenya, South Africa and the United States; Nandi is one of those from the Sates.

In 1968 more than 100 Northern White rhinos lived in Uganda, but as of the early 1980s, no white rhinos were seen. Originally, Eastern Black and Northern White rhinos were present in the Murchison Falls and Kidepo National Parks; a recent survey failed to locate the only known surviving population of about 4 remaining individuals of the Northern White rhinos in the Garamba National Park in the DR Congo. A few remaining Northern White rhinos, a total of maybe 8, are in captivity in the US and Europe.

Rhinos, which are said to have existed on Earth - in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America - for more than 50 million years, are today one of the most endangered species. It's very sad and incredible that rhinos have to be imported from the US to Uganda; decades ago, who would have thought of this. The White rhino once roamed much of sub-Saharan Africa, but today is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by ....... commercial uses. Only about 11,000 white rhinos survive in the wild, and many organizations are working to protect this much loved animal.

Two living subspecies of white rhino are recognised: the northern white rhino, and the southern white rhino. Recent studies have confirmed that the two subspecies are genetically distinct.

Only 4 northern white rhinos remain, all of them in the Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo. Efforts to protect them have been severely disrupted because of the ongoing civil war and incursions by poachers coming mainly from Sudan. Thanks to the dedication of park staff through years of armed conflict in the region, this Critically Endangered subspecies still survives, but for how much longer?

In contrast, the southern white rhino is one of conservation's greatest success stories. Thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, in 1895 a small population of less than 100 was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. After more than a century of protection and management, southern white rhinos are now the only non-endangered rhinos, being classified as Near Threatened. World Wildlife Fund

It's to be noted that: Africans have always lived with wild animals; it's only when foreign forces started entering Africa - traders and colonialists in particular - that the destruction of African wildlife started. And unfortunately for rhinos, due to the very great demand for their horns, they have been one of the most hunted and slaughtered. Today, only five species of rhinos survive. All rhinos are under threat and all but one species, the Southern White, are on the verge of extinction in the wild. Without proper, drastic action, some of the rhino species now living, could soon be extinct.

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