Chibage and Boma were two-year-old hand reared black rhinos and best friends who were being rehabilitated for release back into the wild.  One night, poachers came and fed the rhinos fruit and vegetables laced with poison.  When Chibage was weak, they jumped in the boma and stabbed him repeatedly and took his horn.  Boma was a more nervous individual and was likely huffing, puffing, and charging around her boma.  After Chibage’s death, Boma’s behavior changed.  She banged her horn on the boma door in the mornings, she whined incessantly, and she was restless.  She was noticeably disturbed by the loss of her best friend.

Like many species, white black have been killed and pushed out of wilderness areas that humans have used for agricultural purposes.  This habitat encroachment, while significant, pales in comparison to the devastation caused by the illegal trade in rhino horn.  Since 200 B.C. – 200 A.D. rhino horn has been used as an ingredient in Chinese medicine.  Some people believe that it contains properties that cure arthritis, headaches, nosebleeds, cancer and stop demon possession, to name a few.  In reality, rhino horn is made of keratin and contains no medicinal properties.

For many years, ceremonial dagger handles made of rhino horn, called jambiyas were considered status symbols in Yemen and a significant portion of poached rhino horn went to support that trade.  After an extensive public awareness campaign and a fatwa (religious edict) written by the grand mufti stating that killing rhinos was against the will of God, it became more common for jambiya handles to be made of water buffalo horn, camel nails, or plastic. In 1997, Yemen joined CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, agreeing to ensure that the trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

In 1970, there were approximately 65,000 black rhinos left in the wild.  Between 1970 and 1992, poaching increased so much there was a 96% reduction in numbers and only 2,400 remained.  Since then, population growth has been slow and steady.  Today, approximately 2,400 black rhinos exist in the wild.





Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.