A black rhino displays its vulnerable horns. Photo courtesy of unsplash

By Sofia Mancini, age 8

Did you know that in 1995 there were 500,000 black rhinos, but now they are critically endangered, with only 5,500 of them left? There are only about 23,500 black and white rhinos in total left. With a global pandemic crushing the tourism industry, they are facing more danger than ever from poaching.

The word “rhinoceros” means “nose horn” in Greek. While tourists just want to look at them, poachers want to kill the rhinos and steal their valuable horns to sell. Rhinos can weigh up to 6,000 pounds and be up to two meters tall. They are herbivores and eat grass. There are five different species of rhinos, and the black and white rhinos live in Africa.

Rhinos have no predators in nature, none but human poachers. Rhino horns are made out of keratin, the same material that fingernails and hair are made out of. Poachers hunt rhinos so that they can sell their horns as trophies or for medicinal reasons, as some people believe that the horns can cure diseases.

African rhinos are now facing a crisis caused by the rapid spread of COVID-19. As the lockdown measures crush wildlife tourism, areas which would normally be heavily patrolled have been left wide open for invading poachers. As the industry dries up, wildlife foundations have taken a hit and no longer have enough money to employ anti-poaching rangers to stop the illegal hunting. 

Wildlife conservationists are doing everything they can to stop the poachers, but more funding is needed if they are going to win the fight to save the rhinos. “There is a perception that conservation is some form of luxury,” said Tim Davenport, director of species conservation for Africa at the Wildlife Conservation Society in an interview with Earther. “The corona crisis shows it is not, and that we need it now more than ever.”