View from the Zoo: World Rhino Day highlights threat faced in the wild

Picture shows Samira and Olmoti when they first came to Flamingo Land.
Picture shows Samira and Olmoti when they first came to Flamingo Land.

Last week Flamingo Land recognised World Rhino Day which falls on September 22 every year with a series of talks and shows. The day raises awareness to the threat all five species of rhinoceros face in the wild.

There are two African species including the white and black rhino, along with three Asian species including the Indian, Javan and Sumatran rhino.

There used to be around 500,000 rhinos found across Africa and Asia, however only about 29,000 are left today due to the high demand in poaching for their valuable horns. Today all rhinos are threatened with extinction and three out of the five species are classed as critically endangered, with some subspecies now extinct.

Rhino horn is more valuable than gold and is sought after in Asian countries where it is used in traditional medicine to ‘treat’ a variety of conditions. The horn is made out of keratin and has no proven medicinal benefits. It is also used as a status symbol to show someone’s wealth and success.

Even though rhino numbers have declined drastically, thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programmes there is a slow increase in rhino numbers. From working with local communities in key areas, raising global awareness of the crisis and captive breeding programmes within zoos, all are contributing to help save these incredible animals.

At Flamingo Land we are the only zoo in the UK to have both black and white rhinos. Both species are part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) which aims to safeguard the future of species through captive breeding.

There are currently four black rhinos – three females and a male. Samira and Olmoti who are mother and daughter joined us from Zurich Zoo in Switzerland, then in November last year another female, Chanua, arrived from Chester Zoo and in May this year Baringo, a male rhino came from a zoo in the Czech Republic.

On the other side of the zoo, there are two male white rhinos called Mabaso and Bruce. They also joined us in May and replaced our previous males, Zimba and Balu, who were both old enough to be moved on to other zoos to be paired with females.