Written by John Kurtz, ESLLC 2015-2016
With the death of one the last northern white rhinos a couple months ago, there are now only three northern white rhinos left, all of them female. As sad as the death is, there hasn’t really been any serious hope for the rhino species to recover since 2008, when they were declared extinct in the wild. In the past few months, there has been lots of news coverage on the northern white rhino and the few remaining animals left. Why has the northern white rhino garnered so much attention when other species have been going extinct at unprecedented rates with so little attention?
The answer is the northern white rhino’s extinction was completely unnecessary and preventable, with much of the world knowing about what was happening to them. Humans were hunting thousands of these rhinos for their horns to gain some money, and the conservation world did almost nothing to save them until it was too late. It’s not the first time we know humans have caused the extinction of a species (the dodo bird and Tasmanian tiger come to mind), but it is the first time such a large and iconic animal has gone extinct because of hunting in recent years.
The pangolin is another critically endangered animal facing extinction because of human trafficking and poaching. It is commonly thought the pangolin is the most trafficked animal in the world, with high demand for its meat and scales. It is found in large parts of Africa and Asia and adult pangolins resemble a small, scaled anteater. It is expected to go extinct in the upcoming years if trafficking continues as normal.
Extinction is a natural phenomenon, so why are we fretting so much about it now? The Center for Biological Diversity estimates the natural rate of extinction is one to 5 species every year. Today’s rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times that rate, with dozens of species going extinct everyday. With the unsustainable practices of hunting animals to extinction and demand for certain meat and exotic goods such as pangolin scales, are planet’s biodiversity is certainly heading towards a precarious level.
My recommendation is to get out and see as much of the world as possible before the places and animals change. Even just spreading the word about the plights of wildlife species you find interesting and valuable can raise awareness. Look at that pangolin. Who wouldn’t want to save that little guy!?
“Extinction.” The Extinction Crisis. Center for Biological Diversity, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
Northam, Jackie. “The World’s Most Trafficked Mammal Is One You May Never Have Heard Of.” NPR. NPR, Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.
“Northern White Rhino Dies in US, Leaving Only Three Alive.” BBC News. N.p., 23 Nov. 2016. Web. 26 Jan. 2016.