For their prehistoric look, huge bodies, and tiny minds, I have always been interested in rhinoceroses. A long time ago, long before Google, I read up on rhinoceroses for a series of poems that later appeared in my book A Fall Out the Door. Headlines about rhinoceroses catch my eye, especially this one: Western Black Rhino Declared Extinct.
Probably everyone involved with any aspect of conservation has heard of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its Red List of Threatened Species. All varieties of rhino have long been on that list. This year's report lists the Western Black as extinct and the Northern White of central Africa possibly extinct in the wild. The last member of a subspecies in Vietnam was killed in 2010. The report sums up the reasons this way: "A lack of political support and will power for conservation efforts in many rhino habitats, international organized crime groups targeting rhinos and increasing illegal demand for rhino horns and commercial poaching are the main threats faced by rhinos."
The IUCN doesn't make hasty decisions: as far back as 2006 no members of the Western Black were found in the wild. Yesterday marked only the official declaration. Despite a lifetime of effort by conservation organizations, crime and laxity won out.
You can find photos here.
Rhinoceroses are gray and muddy from wallowing. The blacks have a prehensile upper lip used for browsing on trees and bushes while the whites have a flatter lip for grazing. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell but poor eyesight. The babies are as cute and friendly as all babies, becoming grumpy as adults. I can identify with that.