New Strategy Needed To Save Critically Endangered Black Rhinoceros

Posted: Feb 9 2017, 5:29am CST | by , Updated: Feb 9 2017, 5:47am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

New Strategy Needed to Save Critically Endangered Black Rhinoceros
Credit: Cardiff University
 

New study says that the future is bleak for the black rhinoceros unless something big is done to save them

An international team of researchers is calling for a new strategy to prevent the extinction of endangered black rhinoceros. 

Black rhinoceros, once widely distributed across eastern and southern Africa, are now dangerously close to becoming extinct. These animals are only found in small, scattered populations today and could entirely disappear from the Earth if conservation efforts are not improved. 

Researchers reached to this conclusion after conducting a study both of living and extinct black rhinoceros populations and have found a staggering loss in their genetic variation with 44 of 64 ancestral lineages no longer existing. 

“The decline in the species’ genetic diversity threatens to compromise its potential to adapt in the future as the climate and African landscape changes due to increased pressure from man. The new genetic data we have collected will allow us to identify populations of priority for conservation, giving us a better chance of preventing the species from total extinction.” Co-study author Professor Mike Bruford from Cardiff University said in a statement.

Despite the fact that black rhinoceros were once abundant throughout Africa, researchers know very little about their evolutionary history. The new study not only paints a bleak picture of the future of black rhinoceros but also highlights the threats to these animals, as well as new information on how rhinoceros populations can be recovered. 

Among the threats cited by the researchers as drivers of the decline of black rhinoceros are illegal hunting and habitat loss. The combination of these two factors has reduced the evolutionary potential of the black rhinoceros dramatically over the last 200 years. That is why most earlier genetic lineages are now absent from modern populations.

“The well documented poaching and subsequent demographic collapse of black rhinoceros populations, including the western subspecies (D. b. longipes) declared extinct in 2011, has raised fears that this species will disappear from the wild within the next two decades” Authors wrote in the study.

Next, researchers are aiming to sequence the black rhino genome to see how the loss of genetic diversity is likely to affect populations across Africa, especially in connection with current hunting trends where some populations are targeted more than others.

Many subspecies of black rhinos are already hunted to extinction in some parts of Africa. For instance, Africa's western black rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011 while many more are racing towards extintion.

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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