Officials in Tanzania have claimed the population of endangered rhinos has increased by 1000 per cent in recent years, though British wildlife experts have expressed caution over the figures.
Four years ago there were reportedly just 15 rhinos in the East African country as a result of poaching but now the number is said to be up to 167.
Officials have stated the staggering increase is the result of a government crackdown on organised gangs guilty of industrial-scale poaching. The demand for rhino horns or ivory from elephant tusks in certain Asian countries like China and Vietnam has led to a big poaching problem across Africa.
The rise in rhinos in Tanzania appears to have come in line with President John Magufuli’s time in power. He took office in 2015 and has since been very strict about wildlife crime.
The Independent reports he urged security forces to arrest all those involved trafficking and within months, four Chinese men arrested at the Malawi border for smuggling rhino horns were jailed for 20 years.
In February, a prominent Chinese businesswoman, dubbed the ‘Ivory Queen’, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Tanzanian court for smuggling tusks of more than 350 elephants to Asia, marking a major victory for the government.
Rhinos reportedly aren’t the only ones with an increasing population in Tanzania as officials added the number of elephants in the country has also risen.
As a result of the work of a special taskforce launched in 2016 to fight wildlife poaching, elephant populations have increased from 43,330 in 2014 to over 60,000 presently.
However, while the news of an increasing population is certainly welcomed, Mark Jones, head of policy at wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation, pointed out both rhinos and elephants breed slowly, suggesting there must have been other factors involved in the rise.
According to the Independent, he said:
This sounds like very good news but we should view these figures with caution until there’s independent verification – there’s no way that has occurred through breeding and protection alone.
[Rhinos] mature late, have long gestation periods and don’t produce many young. Both species take a long time biologically to reproduce.
Elephants are intelligent – they move across national borders to where they are safer, so if there’s been a clampdown on poaching in Tanzania, it may be that some have moved in.
China made the ivory trade illegal at the end of 2017, which led to a decline in poaching and pushing down ivory prices. However, Japan, the EU and Hong Kong, among others, still allow ivory trading.
The black rhinoceros is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Hopefully the crackdown on poaching will continue to be effective when it comes to increasing the populations of the animals.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.