Animal endangerment has become one of the most common issues associated with climate change. Many species have entered what’s known as the “red list” of endangerment, meaning their population is so sparse that reproduction and recovery chances are slim. This is a result of the destruction of countless ecosystems and habitats globally, as well as over-hunting and poaching, an issue that’s been around for decades. Just recently the Koala population in New South Wales, Australia was cut by 30% due to the extreme bushfires taking over the continent.
Rhinoceroses have taken one of the hardest hits in terms of population decline due to man-made interference. According to Reader’s Digest, at the beginning of the 20th Century there were about half a million rhinos roaming the planet, and now, that number is down to less than 30,000.
“There were many more rhinos in the early 1900’s, but today they are threatened by poaching and habitat loss. As human populations increase, they are putting more pressure on rhino habitats as well, contracting the living space for rhinos and increasing the likelihood of contact with humans—often with fatal results,” says Bas Huijbregts, African Species Manager at the World Wildlife Fund.
Poaching is very common in different areas of Africa, which has caused two specific species of rhino to be hit the hardest. Black and white rhinos are native to Africa, as of this year about 5,500 black rhinos are still alive, and up to 17,000 white rhinos are still alive; however, within the subspecies of northern white rhinos, only two are still in existence. In an attempt to combat the growing poaching issue, members of the British army have stepped in to relocate the black rhinos to offer them a safer environment for them to continue living.
The troops are moving the black rhinos from the coast of Southern Africa to Malawi, a land-locked area further north, in what they’re calling “one of the largest international rhino translocations to date.” British troops are working with the conservationist group African Parks, who specialize in saving the many endangered species that are native to Africa. The conservationist group helped provide transportation services for the animals’ big move.
According to Africa Parks (AP) report, so far the groups have successfully moved 17 black rhinos to their new place in Malawi. The troops themselves were originally stationed in Malawi for three months as a counter-poaching measure. They worked with individuals who were a part of Liwonde National Park in Malawi, and that’s how they got connected with Africa Parks, as the park falls under AP’s jurisdiction.
Their initial mission, before the big rhino move, was to work with AP to train all of the new, and current, rangers working in the national park on new methods of catching poachers and implementing more effective patrolling methods. They also wanted to improve upon communication standards as a means of prevention before the poachers can even get access to the park.
“Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget,” Major Jez England, Officer Commanding British Army Counter Poaching Team in Liwonde, said in a statement to CNN.
As previously stated only about 5,500 black rhinos are still alive. The British Army and AP hope this move can continue to help conserve the population and rebuild even a little bit of what was lost. The British troops have since returned home; however, their efforts with African Parks and the WWF continue on.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.