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Will we lose the rhino in our lifetime? Three white rhinos were found slaughtered in a 'protected' reserve, some species are on the brink of extinction

White rhinoceros

(NaturalNews) In recent days, a disturbing discovery on a South African game preserve has left many people wondering if the world is not witnessing the final days of one of nature's most incredible animals – the rhinoceros.

As reported by the UK's Daily Mail Online, a wildlife park warden found three white rhinos who had been attacked and killed for their horns. The paper said one warden described the slaughter as "the worst day of my life."

Initially, a pair of females were found dead, and a third rhino, a male bull called Bingo, was found alive with facial lacerations and serious internal leg injuries, but he died soon after and was buried with the two females.

The killings left two calves – one three years old and the other 11 months, both of which were still suckling – orphaned. They had to be sent to a sanctuary.

The attacks were no doubt prompted by a dramatic rise in the value of rhino horns, which are used as a traditional medicine mainly in Asia, as demand has skyrocketed. As such, rhino poaching has surged throughout the African continent, wherever they are found – even on protected game preserves.

Dwindling numbers

The white rhino carcasses were found on the Sibuya Game Reserve owned by Nick Fox in the Eastern Cape province. "These poachers are professional, highly resourced syndicates and if there is a genuine desire to stop this scourge we need a better and more specialized rhino unit," he told the Mail Online.

eNCA.com reported that the poachers used dart guns to down the rhinos because gun shots are too loud and would have alerted anti-poaching authorities, Fox said.

He also said that the reserve's anti-poaching unit had gone to check on another group of rhinos, but when they returned, the two calves came running towards them, one of them spattered with blood.

"We knew then that there was a problem," said Fox.

The news site noted further:

There are an estimated 20,000 white rhino left in the world, with most of those in South Africa. In recent years poaching figures have climbed. In 2007 a mere 13 rhinos were poached in South Africa. In 2015 this had climbed to 1,175 rhinos, which was slightly down on the record 1,215 that were killed by poachers in 2014.

In a separate report, Mail Online noted that a Sumatran rhino, a species not seen in 40 years and believed to have been extinct before cameras caught images of the beasts in 2013, was caught in a pit trap in March in the East Kalimantan province of the Indonesian portion of Borneo, in an area close to mining operations and plantations.

Not so extinct – but very close

The captive Sumatran rhino, a female believed to be around six years old, has been moved to a temporary holding pen after being airlifted by helicopter to a safer habitat on Borneo. The area is highly protected forest, and game preserve officials hope that she can begin breeding a new population.

This particular species is critically endangered, with fewer than 100 remaining in the wild, Mail Online reports.

In 2015, the species was classified as extinct in the wild in Malaysia, as conservationists warned that the animal could disappear entirely for good and soon. However, the new face-to-face encounter with the female Sumatran rhino gives them hope that the population can now be saved.

"Sumatran rhinos are the smallest of the living rhinoceroses and the only Asian rhino with two horns," Mail Online reported. "They are covered with long hair and are more closely related to the extinct woolly rhinos than any of the other rhino species alive today. ...

"Adult males grow to between 2-4m in length and reach up to 1-1.5m in height.

"Their life span is thought to be similar to other rhinos at around 35-40 years," the news site reported.





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