WEST AFRICAN BLACK RHINOCEROS | THE THIRD LARGEST RHINOCEROS

WEST AFRICAN BLACK RHINOCEROS | THE THIRD LARGEST RHINOCEROS

The western black rhinoceros, also known as the West African black rhinoceros, was a subspecies of the black rhinoceros that was considered extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011. Genetically, the western black rhinoceros was thought to be distinct from other rhino subspecies. It was once common in Sub-Saharan Africa’s savannas, but poaching decimated its population. The western black rhinoceros used to be found mainly in Cameroon, but surveys conducted since 2006 have yielded no results. 

Ludwig Zukowsky named this subspecies Diceros bicornis longipes in 1949. Longipes is a Latin word that combines the words longus (“far, long”) and ps (“foot”). This refers to the subspecies’ long distal limb section, which is one of the subspecies’ many unique features. The square-based horn, first mandibular premolar preserved in adults, plain shaped crochet of the maxillary premolar, and premolars with crista were all distinguishing characteristics of the western black rhino. Southwest Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), North Cameroon, and Northeast Nigeria were the first places where the population was found. The western black rhinoceros is one of three black rhinoceros subspecies that have gone extinct in recorded history, the other two being the southern and north-eastern black rhinoceros.

The western black rhinoceros was 3–3.75 meters (9.8–12.3 feet) long, 1.4–1.8 meters (4.6–5.9 feet) tall and weighed 800–1,400 kilograms (1,760–3,090 pounds). The first horn was 0.5–1.4 m (1.6–4.6 ft) long, and the second was 2–55 cm (0.79–21.65 in) long. They were browsers, like all Black Rhinos, and their diet consisted mostly of leafy plants and shoots found in their environment. Poaching was rampant and many people believed their horns had medicinal value. This belief, however, is unsupported by scientific evidence. They were thought to be nearsighted, like most black rhinos, and would rely on nearby birds like the red-billed oxpecker to help them track incoming threats.

The black rhinoceros, of which the western black rhinoceros is a subspecies, was most widely found in a number of countries in Africa’s southeast region. Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Chad, Rwanda, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zambia were among the black rhino’s native countries.

Several subspecies were discovered in Tanzania’s western and southern regions, as well as in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, as well as in the northern, north-western, and north-eastern areas of South Africa. South Africa and Zimbabwe have the Blackest Rhino populations, with a lower number in southern Tanzania. The Black Rhino’s Western subspecies was last seen in Cameroon and is now considered extinct. Other subspecies, however, were reintroduced into Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zambia.

Mao Zedong successfully promoted traditional Chinese medicine in the 1950s in an effort to fight Western influences. Several animals were hunted in the process of modernizing this industry. According to the SATCM’s official statistics, 11,146 botanical and 1,581 zoological species were used, as well as 80 minerals. The Western Black Rhino was also hunted for the benefit of its horn, which was thought to have the ability to heal various illnesses and detect poisons (due to its high alkaline content). Horns can be expensive, with 1 kg of horn costing more than $50,000 USD, and the disappearance of the species further adds to the scarcity and importance of the horn.

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