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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book of the Week: Another Peek at Conservation


One of the most endangered species on the planet is Diceros bicornis, commonly known as the Black Rhinoceros. Distributed throughout Africa, south of the Sahara, the "current range of black rhinoceroses is bounded by Cameroon, Kenya, and South Africa but their distribution within those limits is fragmented." The threat to the Rhino population is largely due to a demand for the species' horns, "both for use in Chinese traditional medicine and for traditional dagger handles in Yemen." The demand for these horns increased significantly in the 1970s as the "oil-rich Gulf States" experienced increased income. "It is estimated that between 1970 and 1992, around 96 percent of the black rhinoceros population was lost." Three subspecies of the Black Rhinoceros - the eastern, southwestern and southern central subspecies - are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Red List. The fourth subspecies of the Black Rhinoceros - the western subspecies - is listed as Probably Extinct. The total population of Black Rhinoceros today is approximately 3,725 individuals.

Fortunately, there are ongoing efforts to protect this species, and it now looks as though most black rhino populations are increasing. Nevertheless, populations still comprise only a fraction of what they were only fifty years ago. "Conservation efforts to preserve black rhinos include establishing a ban against the horn trade, creating fenced sanctuaries for black rhinos to better protect them from poachers, and dehorning black rhinos to decrease incentive for poaching."

The Black Rhinoceros was first described by Carl von Linné in volume 1 of Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (1758), this week's book of the week. Volume 1 of this work describes the Animal Kingdom, while volume 2 describes the Plant Kingdom. Linné, also commonly known as Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist, is best known for laying the schema for binomial nomenclature, the naming convention used to identify species. His numerous works include the first descriptions of many, many species, and serve as the foundation by which modern scientists describe life as they continue to increase our knowledge about it.

For more information about the conservation of the Black Rhinoceros, and what you can do to help, see the Black Rhinoceros page at the World Wildlife Fund website.

To find more information about the Black Rhinoceros species, take a look at the species page on EOL.

For a look at the listing of the Black Rhinoceros on the endangered species list in BHL, see page 25 of the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals.

And finally, take a look at this week's book of the week, Systema naturae per regna tria naturae :secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (1758), volume 1, by Carl von Linné, in which you can see the first description of both the Black Rhinoceros and many other species.

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