Western Black Rhino  (Source:
Poaching is largely the reason for the western black rhino's extinction

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has announced that Africa's western black rhino is officially extinct.

The western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) is a rare subspecies of the Black Rhinoceros. At one time, it was widespread in the savanna of central-west Africa.

The IUCN declared the western black rhino extinct in the annual update of its Red List, which was founded in 1963 and serves as an inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

Poaching is largely the reason for the western black rhino's extinction. Criminal gangs resort to poaching in order to trade these rhinos' horns, which are valuable.

"They had the misfortune of occurring in places where we simply weren't able to get the necessary security in place," said Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. "You've got to imagine an animal walking around with a gold horn; that's what you're looking at, that's the value and that's why you need incredibly high security."

In addition to the western black rhino, the northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), which is one of two subspecies of the White Rhinoceros, is also nearing extinction as well. In addition, the last Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) has disappeared.

The overall numbers of black and white rhinos have been increasing, but specific subspecies are the ones at risk due to poaching. According to MSNBC, some Eastern countries use the ground up horns for medicines which are claimed to help prevent cancer.

"Human beings are stewards of the Earth and we are responsible for protecting the species that share our environment," said Stuart. "In the case of both of Western Black Rhino and the Northern White Rhino, the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented. These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve breeding performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction."

According to the IUCN, 25 percent of the world's mammals are at risk of extinction.

Sources: MSNBC, BBC News

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