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.
Saturday, September 22nd 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.
Within its modest acreage, Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park packs five of the eight volcanoes that make up the majestic Virunga Mountains, a haven for the critically endangered mountain gorilla. Families of this great ape are scattered across the transboundary mountain range between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda — but more than half are found in Volcanoes.
With fewer than 300 mountain gorillas remaining in the 1980s, the birth of a baby was a huge victory for the rangers and conservation experts dedicated to protecting this critically endangered great ape in its natural habitat. They bestowed the newborn mountain gorilla with a name inspired by the circumstances of the birth, mirroring an age-old naming tradition embedded in Rwanda’s cultural tapestry.
In 2017 and early 2018, African Wildlife Foundation’s canine units made over 100 busts, uncovering raw and worked ivory, pangolin scales and skins, lion bones, sable antelope horns, rhino horns, hippo teeth, and more. In August 2017 our dogs alerted their handlers to a huge stash — 50 pounds of rhino horn in a smuggler’s bag at the Entebbe International Airport. The Vietnamese smuggler was arrested, prosecuted and eventually fined and deported from Uganda.