Extinction Minus Three

ENVIRONMENT

The death of one of the four remaining northern white rhinos has further stoked fears that the subspecies is doomed for extinction. (Nat Geo News)

Use our resources to learn how conservationists are using guns, drones, and dogs to protect the remaining northern white rhinos.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

NGS Picture Id:110339

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park was home to two white rhinos: Angalifu and Nola. (I’m not sure which one is depicted here.) Angalifu died in 2014, and Nola died on November 22. Only three northern white rhinos remain.
Photograph by Michael Nichols, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

rhinos-select-map

Poaching has devastated all species of rhinoceros, with most traffic flowing to eastern and southeastern Asia.
Map by Virginia W. Mason, National Geographic

  • Why are northern white rhinos so critically endangered?
    • Poaching has ravaged the population. White rhinos are hunted primarily for sport and their valuable horn, which is used as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicines. Learn more about rhino poaching here.
    • Rapid habitat loss due to human activity has also put the animals at risk. Human activity includes development, agriculture, and civil wars that devastate the environment.
    • It’s important to remember that white rhinos were never as numerous as some of their fellow savanna grazers such as wildebeests or zebras. In the 1960s, scientists think there were about 2,000 northern white rhinos, with populations ranging over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Twenty years later, the population had shrunk to 15. Today, 45 years later, it’s shrunk to three.

 

  • What steps have conservationists already taken to help preserve a population of northern white rhinos? How have conservation efforts helped the northern white rhino’s sister species, the southern white rhino?
    • According to Nat Geo News, scientists have already harvested sex cells from the remaining northern white rhinos and are planning in-vitro fertilization using a southern white rhino surrogate mother. That effort is expected to take more than a decade.
    • According to Nat Geo News, “conservation efforts by the South African government have helped the [southern white rhino] rebound to a population of around 20,000, through breeding and relocating rhinos, as well as allowing controlled sport hunting, which is controversial but has encouraged some landowners to raise rhinos.”
    • The ultimate solution to all of this is to diminish demand in the countries which demand these products [rhino horns],” says Richard Vigne, the CEO of the the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. In the meantime, take a look at this video to see how the conservancy is working to protect its white rhinos today.

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: Only Three Northern White Rhinos Remain

Nat Geo: Fighting Rhino Poaching With Guns, Drones, and Dogs

Nat Geo: Rhino Wars article, photo gallery, map, and video

Ol Pejeta Conservancy: Northern White Rhinos

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