The conservation of the African rhinoceros has become one of the symbols of wildlife conservation in
and of the protection of its natural habitats. At global level the conservation of rhinoceros is one of the emblems of the international efforts spent towards preserving biodiversity and the need to strike a balance with the ever pressing needs of economic development.
The conservation of rhinos faces complex dilemmas. The African rhinoceros have been brought to the verge of extinction by killing for sport, meat and to supply the horn trade. The demand for rhino horns in markets far away from
has been the major culprit for the shrinking rhino populations over the last few decades. However, threats to rhino populations often have deep roots. Wherever vast swaths of savannahs are converted into agricultural land, there is no room for these megaherbivores. Likewise, poaching is not only due to the demand for rhino products in the
and in the Gulf, but is also linked to a complex set of factors among which poverty in
plays a major role.
There are two species of African rhinoceros: the white rhinocero (Ceratotherium simum) and the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). There are two sub-species of the white rhino and four subspecies of the black rhino: the two subspecies of white rhino and three subspecies of the black rhino occur in
This region accounts today for by far the largest number of rhinos in the continent. The few success stories of rhino conservation and many of its dramatic failures have taken place in
. The survival of rhinos and the expansion of their populations, much sought by conservationists world-wide, is unavoidably interwoven with the dilemmas of sustainable development faced by Southern African countries.