31 October 2018

Tanzania: Why Black Rhino Needs Extra Protection

THE black rhino is an endangered species and the government is working tirelessly to save it from being totally extinct. According to wild life statistics, the number of these animals dropped tremendously in the recent past.

In a report, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), says the country had 10,000 Rhinos in early 1970s conserved in different national parks, but the number diminished to only 32 in 1995.

This is the reason for the heavyweight mammal to be classified as an endangered species. Dr Jasson John of the University of Dar es Salaam describes that African Rhinos are of two types, white and black rhinos.

He says though, color does not mainly distinguish black or white rhino, but their ways of life. He says what differentiates black and white rhinos is basically the way of feeding and calf rearing. He says that white rhinos have a wider mouth and they are grazers, eating grass like cows or goats while black rhino are browsers, feeding on tree tops like giraffe.

Another description is on calf rearing whereby a white female rhino's calf always stands in front of the mother, so that it can be protected from dangerous animals like lions. As for the black rhino, the calf comes behind the mother, so that she can make the way as it mostly lives in thick bushes, trees or forests.

There are natural, animal and human factors that led to the diminishing number of black rhino in Tanzania and the African continent as a whole. Poaching is the main factor for the death of this large wild mammal.

Mr Kolady Kayanda, a rhino project officer from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Tanzania office says that poachers are killing rhinos is search of its single horn Mr Kayanda says the rhino's meat is not a driving force for poaching though he agrees with the fact that rhino meat is consumed by human beings but in reality, no single person can put energy into hunting a rhino for meat.

"It is very risky even for a poacher to indulge in rhino hunting as the huge and most powerful wild animal is very dangerous, it can violently kill its hunters" he stresses.

Explaining why poachers are risking their lives to search for rhino horn, Dr Jasson explains that the two main reasons are: on belief of being with some medicinal values and a sign of prestige mostly to some Asian communities.

"Some Asians believe that the rhino's horn has medicinal properties which are strengthening men's sexual performance and filtering impurities from the blood if ground and consumed. Also the horn signifies prestige, economic success and wealth at the same time" reveals Dr Jasson.

According to him, this has led to increased price of the horn as the reason for poachers risking their lives and disregarding the benefits of the Rhino's national heritage status into ending their life easily. Apart from poaching being identified as a human drive to the diminishing of a number of rhinos, there are some natural factors.

The main one is the nature of life in the jungle where animal fights and daily bread searching leads to some of rhinos to kicking the bucket. Dr Jasson also admits the fact that, a lion cannot easily engage into hunting an old rhino as it is a big and powerful animal.

The rhino calf according to him can be attacked and killed by lions and other types of carnivores. Another natural threats to rhino's life is between themselves over power and supremacy. Although these are rare cases, but Dr Jasson exemplifies of a male rhino that was brought to Serengeti national parks from South Africa that fought its fellow male rhino to the extent of losing life.

There are economic, social and environmental benefits of safeguarding rhino's life. These benefits the main driving forces for that the government, nongovernmental organizations and international communities are putting efforts to safeguard rhino's from being finished completely.

One of the main economic factors is that rhinos are attracting a good number of tourists, although it cannot be spotted on how many tourists are flocking into the country specifically looking for rhinos, but its tourism value is of highest class that can never be disregarded.

Rhinos being one of the big five wild animals has tremendous benefits to the economy of the country where tourists' operators and citizens living near national parks sees direct economic contribution from tourism sector. On environmental benefits, Mr Kayanda of WWF explains that rhinos are part of the ecosystem, efforts must be done so that they don't disappear for good. He says that animals in totality don't pollute natural environments.

"Unlike human beings, animal don't drill wells for water or other resources resources, if there is no water available at one point, it will go search for it to another point, they know where to search for food with minimal environmental effects" In reality, large animals like rhinos have a unique importance to environmental conservation and simplifying lives of other wild animals.

He explains that for they are big animals, rhinos do consume much food, this helps grazer animals like Zebra and wildebeest find food easily as bushes are cleared and making a path. Noted social factor of conserving rhinos is leaving inheritance for the future generations as insisted by the father of the nation the late Julius Kambarage Nyerere.

The government has never relented in making sure that rhinos and other wild animals are conserved and safeguarded from extinction. Formulation and implementation of National Wildlife Policy of 2007 and the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2013 are among factors that contributed to the recent increase in rhinos.

A good number of rangers are on shifting duty to twentyfour hours seven days a week to curb poaching activities. With this, some Tanzanian nationals and foreign citizens have been apprehended, sentenced and fined concurrently. International organisations like WWF have contributed to human and financial resources in support of government efforts.

For example, on 22 September 2018, WWF coordinated and cerebrated World Rhino Day for the first time in Dar es Salaam. The commemoration that focused on involving youth as the future decision makers in safeguarding the rhino's life, saw the participation of different stake holders who shared different research findings on the way of protecting the crucial animal and steps take so far.

During the rhino day commemoration, Dr. Emmanuel Masenga a conservationist from TAWIR said that the number of Rhinos is now adding up from 32 in 1995 to nearly 100 and it is expected that there will continue to increase in 20 years to come.

It is to certain that a matured rhino weighs up to two tones, the female rhino takes 15 months to give birth while after that, it will take a period of 3 years to bear another pregnancy. In Tanzania, Rhinos can live in Mkomazi, Ruaha, Mikumi, Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Selous national parks therefore the country is capacitated to conserve a biggest number of rhino and other wild animals.

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