Western black rhinoceros
The western black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) or West African black rhinoceros is an extinct subspecies of the black rhinoceros. They were believed to have been genetically different from other rhino subspecies. It was once widespread in the savanna of sub-Saharan Africa, but its numbers declined due to poaching. The western black rhinoceros resided primarily in Cameroon, but recent surveys have failed to locate any individuals. In 2011 it was declared extinct by the IUCN.
The western black rhinoceros measured 3–3.8 m (9.8–12.5 ft) long, had a height of 1.4–1.7 m (4.6–5.6 ft), and weighed 800–1,300 kg (1,800–2,900 lb). It had two horns, the first measuring 0.5–1.3 m (1.6–4.3 ft) and the second 2–55 cm (0.79–21.65 in). Like all Black Rhinos, they were browsers, and their common diet included leafy plants and shoots around their habitat. During the morning or evening, they would browse for food. During the hottest parts of the day, they slept or wallowed. They inhabited much of sub-Saharan Africa. Many people believe their horns held medicinal value, which lead to heavy poaching. However, this belief has no grounding in scientific fact. Like most black rhinos, they are believed to have been nearsighted and would often rely on local birds, such as the red-billed oxpecker, to help them detect incoming threats.
Habitat and finding
The black rhino, of which the western black rhinoceros is a subspecies, was most commonly located in several countries towards the southeast region of the continent of Africa. The native countries of the black rhino included: Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Chad, Rwanda, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zambia. There are several subspecies found in the western and southern countries of Tanzania through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, to the northern and north-western and north-eastern parts of South Africa. The Black Rhino's most abundant population was found in South Africa and Zimbabwe, with a smaller population found in southern Tanzania. The Western subspecies of the Black Rhino was last recorded in Cameroon but is now considered to be extinct. However, other subspecies were introduced again into Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia.
Population and decline
The western black rhinoceros was heavily hunted in the beginning of the 20th century, but the population rose in the 1930s after preservation actions were taken. As protection efforts declined over the years, so did the number of western black rhinos. By 1980 the population was in the hundreds. No animals are known to be held in captivity, however it was believed in 1988 that approximately 20–30 were being kept for breeding purposes. Poaching continued and by 2000 only an estimated 10 survived. In 2001, this number dwindled to only five. While it was believed that around thirty still existed in 2004, this was later found to be based upon falsified data.
Some believe that widespread poaching was responsible for bringing the species close to extinction. Punishments for poaching and efforts behind preventing it were lacking. Individuals caught poaching were never sentenced. The Western black rhinoceros was last seen in Cameroon 2006. It was declared officially extinct in 2011.
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