We have witnessed species after species fall to extinction. In 2013, the latest review of animals and plants by the International Union for Conservation of Nature found that the Western Black rhino had been totally wiped out. By 1980, the population was estimated in the hundreds. By 2000, only an estimated 10 survived. And in 2006, a survey of the last remaining habitat failed to find any Western black rhinos.
Now, it seems that the Northern white rhino is about to fall over the brink.
Suni the Rhino recently passed away. He was a 34-year-old male, and he died in a conservancy in Kenya. This leaves only 6 of these rhinos left on all of the planet. Suni was found dead on Friday by rangers at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, and the rangers say that they believe that he died of natural causes. However, that does not make his death any less worrisome, as he was one of the last two breeding males in the world. "Consequently the species now stands at the brink of complete extinction, a sorry testament to the greed of the human race. We will continue to do what we can to work with the remaining three animals on Ol Pejeta in the hope that our efforts will one day result in the successful birth of a northern white rhino calf," a spokesman for the Conservancy said.
Though they used to roam in numbers across Africa, the rhino population declined dramatically due to human encroachment and poaching. In the 1960s, there were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos (these numbers were not promising, but they were something). However, by 1984 only about 15 individuals survived in the wild. Unfortunately, the decrease in the population has not altered the attitudes of many who wish to use the rhino horns for herbal medicine and other crafts.
Last year, on the streets, rhino horn went for about $65,000 per kg.
Suni was transported to Kenya in 2009 as part of a breeding program, which was meant to prevent the extinction of the species. Experts thought that the 90,000-acre private wildlife conservancy would make for a better environment to coax the rhinos into breeding. So far, these endeavors have not been fruitful.
Ultimately, the southern white rhino is the only non-endangered rhino, with some 20,000 animals left on the planet.
Though extinction is natural, this process is currently fueled by human actions. In the Americas, 80% of large animals became extinct around the same time as first Western humans arrived. Of course, many species went extinct before humans arrived, but (as the previous statistic indicated) we have caused the numbers to skyrocket due to deforestation, habitat destruction, light pollution etc. Where rhinos are concerned, we are not talking about a naturally occurring process. This is notable, as ecosystems evolve slowly over time, forming a community that is linked by a number of tendrils. The biosphere is complex, and if any of these tendrils snap, it could have a plethora of unforseen (and often negative) consequences.
A general ecological rule is: That which tends to increase diversity is good; that which tends to decrease it is bad.
Thus, the current human fueled mass extinction event is rather bad (and not at all beneficial to the biosphere as a whole).
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