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 White rhinos decimated – study

Wednesday 11 August 2004

rhinoA newly published study into the white rhinos of the Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the planet’s only remaining wild population of the species, shows that up to 50% have been slaughtered in the last 14 months. Conservation efforts after sustained poaching boosted the decimated population in Garamba from just 15 in 1984 to a minimum of 30 by 2003, however the most recent investigation reveals this has dropped to between 17 and 22.

This represents a huge loss of rhinos in just 14 months, and over half of the world's wild northern white rhinos have been lost in just over a year. Increasing numbers of heavily-armed poaching gangs, including ones from neighbouring Sudan, are known to be operating in the area and are said to be responsible for the recent slaughter. The Park's guards are struggling to contain this well-armed insurgency and several guards have lost their lives in anti-poaching operations.

"It is devastating and deeply frustrating to see fresh rhino and elephant carcasses throughout the southern sector," says Kes Hillman Smith of the Garamba National Park Project. "We have been fighting to save these rhinos and elephants and the Garamba Park for 23 years. It is ironic that now as peace is supposed to be coming to the region, the exploitation of large mammals has escalated. We are doing all we can to raise a far greater level of support."

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