One of nature’s most majestic and awe-inspiring creatures, the western black rhino has officially been labeled extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
According to the report from the IUCN, humans have not seen the African black rhino in the wild since 2006, and the animal has been classified as a critically endangered species for some time, but is now considered to be extinct from the wild.
Simon Stuart, the chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement, “In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented.”
The Javan rhino is also critically in danger of extinction, but the African white rhino has seen its species rebound to as many as 20,000 in the wild today, up significantly from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century due to aggressive reintroduction and species protection programs.
Environmental factors and animal poaching—as in the case of the rhinos, whose horns are considered a valuable commodity in the Asian black market for believed medicinal benefits—have led to its extinction. The large, gentle creatures are slow breeders, with gestation periods of 15-16 months and birthing only a single calf.
There are currently only several hundred black rhinos living in zoos around the world. They historically face challenges breeding in captivity, making chances of the species rebounding and re-establishing wild populations through any reintroduction programs slim.
The IUCN’s latest Red List of Threatened Species has concluded that 25 percent of the mammals listed out of the more than 60,000 species are facing extinction.
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