President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia declared 5 June 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino, thereby committing his government to the survival of the planet's rhino populations, which have under threat by organised and syndicated rhino poachers in the last three years.
The government of Indonesia has also made commitments to establish a high-level rhino task force of national and international experts; allocate sufficient resources to enforce protection of remaining rhino populations, and ensure that there is regular and intensive monitoring of all rhino populations in Indonesia.
In the last decade, two rhino subspecies, the Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) in Cameroon and the Indochinese Javan Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) in Vietnam have gone extinct. Today, the populations of two more subspecies, the Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) and the mainland population of the Sumatran Rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis lasiotus), both listed as Critically Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, are perilously close to extinction because of an increase in illegal hunting and non-traditional use of rhino horn.
During this International Year of the Rhino, it is hoped that all rhino range states in Africa and Asia will join Indonesia and give priority to securing their rhino populations. There are ambitions to bring illegal hunting and trade, especially the illegal trade of rhino horn, under control by ensuring that effective deterrents are in place and enforced. It is also hoped that measures that encourage a rapid growth in rhino numbers will be taken. In Indonesia, extra action will be taken to translocate isolated individuals to actively managed protected areas and improve rhino habitats by removing invasive plant species and providing additional sources of water.
"Effective conservation by governments in Africa and Asia, in some cases with the support of non-governmental conservation organizations, has been successful in bringing back the Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum), Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and Indian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) from the brink of extinction. It is clear that highly-focused management and improved conservation measures can lead to increases in the populations of rhinos, and it is now urgent that this is also implemented for the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, as the Indonesian President has stated.
"The rhino poaching crisis has demonstrated that there is no single solution to addressing illegal wildlife trade, which is an increasing global phenomenon," says Yolan Friedmann, CEO, Endangered Wildlife Trust. "Estimated to be the third largest form of illegal trade, after drugs and human trafficking, wildlife trade often has its roots in organised, trans-boundary crime. For this reason a multi-pronged approach involving the collaboration and cooperation of a diverse range of partners is critical.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust is proud to be working with the group of organisations that has called for international recognition of this crisis and the acknowledgement of the plight of the rhino through declaring 2012 as the start of the International Year of the Rhino. We hope that this will elevate rhino conservation and the illegal trade in rhino horn to a global priority and ramp up efforts to stem the poaching of rhino."
"The dramatic surge in rhino poaching we are seeing now is linked with increased demand for rhino horn in Asia, particularly among wealthy elites and business people in Vietnam, where it carries prestige as a luxury item, as a post-partying cleanser, and also as a purported cancer cure," warned Tom Milliken, the rhino trade expert for TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. "It is critical that Africa's law enforcement efforts are significantly scaled up and linked with enforcement and demand reduction efforts in consumer markets in Asia. We'll only win this war if both sides align against the criminal syndicates behind this trade."