Until 1993, the Great Ruaha River, the main source of water for wildlife in Ruaha National Park, flowed in the dry season. Since then, between September and late November every year, sections of the river disappear resulting in water scarcity for people and wildlife as well as loss of habitat which is devastating for water-dependent species like the hippo. Over these low-rainfall months, some individuals of other large mammals like elephants and buffalos move out of the protected area, sometimes raiding human settlements and farmland as they look for water.
The hippo has two habitat requirements: waters deep enough to cover them entirely — their thin epidermis and lack of sweat glands expose them to rapid dehydration out of water — and nearby grasslands where they can graze. With the rising demand and competition for water resources, plus land conversions to provide space for infrastructure development, human settlements, and intensification of agriculture, the hippo is in a very vulnerable position.
The dense tropical rainforests of Maringa-Lopori-Wamba — a biodiversity hotspot in the Congo River Basin and critical habitat for endangered bonobos — are also a valuable income-generating resource for communities. Displaced by years of political instability, people settled in the remote landscape are some of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s poorest. To scrape a living, locals clear small sections to expand their farms or cut trees to make charcoal and sell firewood. Some even resort to hunting as the illicit trade of bush meat grows.
There are about 25,000 rhinos in all of Africa today. This number becomes more meaningful — and painful — when you consider rhinos’ former strength on the continent. Black rhinos once numbered in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps up to 850,000, while southern white rhinos were widespread in their range south of the Zambezi river.
September 22, 2018 is World Rhino Day, a day that celebrates all the five species of rhino: black, white, greater one-horned, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. This day has grown to be a global phenomenon celebrated by governments, animal-rights organizations and animal enthusiasts around the world. In recent years, rhinos have been threatened by poaching, which has left certain rhino species on the brink of extinction while leaving other species severely endangered. This day therefore not only celebrates this species and supports their future, but it most importantly generates awareness of issues regarding their well-being. This year, I haven’t come across a more thrilling awareness campaign than Sides of a Horn.