Over the past two weeks, the El Paso Rhinos visited the Humane Society’s Kids and Critters Camp (right) to increase awareness about the endangerment of wild rhinos. Speaking to children between the ages of 6 and 12, the hockey team’s staff members discussed the importance of rhino conservation.
Humans– many who commit poaching (the act of harvesting any animal illegally)– are wild rhinos’ worst threat. Every day there are hundreds of poachers throughout Africa and Asia that kill rhinos, a species already considered an endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Rhinos are sought because their horns contain keratin, a protein that is thought capable of treating or curing many illnesses.
Not only is rhino poaching damaging to the rhino species as a whole, but it is ultimately a cruel act toward individual rhinos. Many do not have their horns removed posthumously. Instead, there horns are carved from their heads leaving them injured and helpless.
For the past three years, poaching has been on the rise with nearly 400 rhinos being killed between January and April of this year. Although only three of the five rhino species are endangered, all of the rhinos in the world can fit into Wembley Stadium, home of the England National Football Team. As of now, fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos remain in Asia and there are, at most, 61 Javan rhinos still alive. Even more troubling, there are only seven Northern White rhinos left on earth. The only male of the group is surrounded 24/7 by armed guards. These alarming statistics suggest that all rhino species may become extinct by 2018 if poaching is not halted immediately. A species that has walked the earth for 50 million years will not survive the next 50 without our help.
While the rhino population is dwindling, the number of poachers is rising—but so are incarcerations. In Africa, the number of poaching arrests increased from 165 in 2010 to 386 in 2014. Additional efforts to conserve rhinos have been made by the countries where the mammals reside. Many nations have signed an agreement to step up law enforcement and population monitoring to help reduce poaching of dwindling rhino populations.
In 2008, the Rhinos franchise first took an interest in rhino conversation when it adopted Tatenda (left), an orphaned rhino in Zimbabwe. For the first few years of his life, the hockey team paid for the wild black rhino’s food and upkeep. Since then, the organization has attempted to raise rhino endangerment awareness. This year, the team is joining the American Association of Zookeepers in hosting Winos for Rhinos. The wine tasting will be held on the evening of August 14 at Sunland Park Winery. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.facebook.com/elpasodelnorteaazk. All proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit rhino conservation.