FIRE was created by University of Illinois students after traveling on a study abroad program to South Africa and witnessing the horrors of rhino poaching first hand. Realizing that the general public in the USA is unaware of how critical the situation has become, FIRE was created with the hopes of sparking interest in rhino conservation and to spread awareness of the poaching crisis.
MISSION on FIRE
To create awareness on the devastation poaching is having on the rhino populations throughout the world and to assist in small rhino population recovery. FIRE believes removing the demand for rhino horn through education in Asia, Africa & the Middle East is a key to the survival of the rhino. Knowledge is power and the more we know, the more we care to save.
BACKGROUND ON RHINO
At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. This fell to 70,000 by 1970 and further to just 29,000 in the wild today. Despite this bleak picture, and the continuing threat of poaching for their valuable horns, global rhino population figures have been increasing in recent years.
Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered black rhino resulted in a dramatic 96% decline from 65,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,300 in 1993. Since 1995, black rhinos have been listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List even though populations continent-wide have been steadily increasing to an estimated size of ~5,055 individuals by the beginning of 2014.
The overwhelming rhino conservation success story is that of the southern white rhino. With numbers as low as 50 left in the wild in the early 1900s, this subspecies of rhino has now increased to over 20,000 and has become the most populous of all the rhino species. The population is continuing to increase every year, however there are concerns that the unprecedented rise in rhino poaching since 2008 may bring this species back into decline if the poaching is not reduced.
TODAYS RHINO CRISIS
There has been a 770% increase in the slaughter of rhinoceros in Africa for their horns since 2007. Most of the horns are coming out of Southern Africa, which has the densest population of rhino. In 2013, South Africa alone lost more than 1000 rhinos due to poaching. A large amount of funds have been dedicated to the cause in South Africa. However, it is the small populations in other counties are often forgotten.
for its medicinal properties.
Ignorance will be the demise of the rhino; therefore, Fight to Inhibit Rhino Extinction (FIRE) was created to ignite awareness of this situation throughout the University of Illinois campus. The UofI is ranked #2 in the USA for international students, representing 22.8% of the total student population of which 72% are from East Asia, Africa and the Middle East, which provides a great opportunity to educate and set ablaze the spread of awareness back in their home countries where the poaching and purchasing of rhino horn is taking place.
There is a great need for assistance in sustaining the remaining populations of rhino throughout the world. FIRE will focus on creating rhino relief aid for smaller, less prominent population where a little help will go a long way!
FIRE’s first initiative will be to raise funds to protect one of the last remaining populations of black rhino in Malawi at the Liwonde National Park. Raising $5,000-10,000 can go a long way in the survival of these rhinos. All of the funds will go directly to aid the treatment of rhino injured during poaching attempts, equip every rhino in Liwonde with VHF radio transmitters and receivers for monitoring purposes and to establish an anti-poaching team. This issue needs to be addressed urgently and currently there are very limited resources to support the protection of the remaining rhinos.
Endorsement from Chief Veterinary Officer of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s African Rhino Specialist Group
“Liwonde National Park in Malawi is experiencing a wave of poaching and the very valuable population of black rhino in the park is also being seriously affected. Three rhino have died in poaching incidents and numerous have been injured from snares. While the management and security in the park is being improved we are monitoring the rhino very carefully and providing a rapid response to any rhino we observe which has been injured in attempted poaching incidents. The response entails bringing in an experienced wildlife veterinarian and supported by an ecologist and a team of trackers they locate, dart and treat the animal. It is not easy. Most of the area is covered with thick bush and the rhino are very wary. If the rhino do not have a functional radio transmitter in the horn it can take days for the trackers to find it and even with a horn transmitter it can be very challenging. Malawi is a very poor country and there is just not enough money to bring in a vet to assist with this work. This means that often animals have remained untreated for a considerable time and that’s not acceptable.As the veterinarian on the African Rhino Specialist Group I fully endorse FIRE in their efforts to save the Liwonde rhino. Rhino are under huge pressure across Africa and the Liwonde rhino are special and deserve all the support they can get.” ~Dr. Pete Morkel
FIRE has teamed up with Dr. Pete Morkel, the veterinarian on the African Rhino Specialist Group, to focus on saving one of two remaining populations of black rhino in the Liwonde National Park.
LIWONDE NATIONAL PARK
Liwonde was proclaimed as a National Park in 1973 and considered the most prolific wildlife area in Malawi, despite its size – only 548km2. Relatively dry mopane woodlands cover the eastern half of the Park where they are interspersed with unworldly candelabra trees, while patches of miombo woodland occur on the limited hill slopes in the south and east. Liwonde National Park is home to the largest remaining elephant population in Malawi. Rhino, buffalo, Lichtenstein’s hartebeest, zebra, roan and eland were historically hunted to extinction in the area, but have since been introduced into what is known as The Sanctuary – a substantial 4,000ha fenced area within Liwonde National Park that serves as a reservoir for rare species.
HISTORY OF BLACK RHINO IN LIWONDE
In the late 1980s the last black rhino disappeared from Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve (in the extreme SW of Malawi) and the species became extinct in Malawi. In 1993, the first pair of black rhino were airlifted into a fenced sanctuary within Liwonde NP. Their names were Justerini and Brooks and they, along with several other rhinos that followed them, would be part of one of the most successful black rhino breeding programs in Africa. The final stage in this conservation success story was to bring down the sanctuary’s fence so that Liwonde park itself becomes the “sanctuary”. Enlarging the sanctuary in this way means continued monitoring of the black rhino is increasingly important.
Rhino poaching has reached a crisis point and if the killing continues at this rate, we could see rhino deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the immediate future. The drastic increase in poaching is a result of a high demand of rhino horn for traditional Asian medicine, specifically in Vietnam and China, and for the traditional Yemenense dagger, the jambiya. In traditional medicine, the horn is ground into a fine powder to treat a number of illnesses from nosebleeds to cancer. Rhino horn is made up of keratin, the same material that’s found in hair and nails, and there is no scientific support
THERE HAS BEEN A 9000% INCREASE IN THE SLAUGHTER OF RHINOCEROS IN AFRICA FOR THEIR HORNS SINCE 2007; IT IS TIME TO STOP THIS.
There is currently a very significant threat of poaching to the black rhino population in Liwonde National Park in Malawi. This issue needs to be addressed urgently and the Malawi National Parks Department has very limited resources to continue effectively protecting the remaining animals.The overall aim of the project is thus to continually monitor the black rhino in Liwonde National Park, to maintain high levels of security and to reduce poaching risks. A vital element to monitoring is fitting tracking and monitoring devices into the horns of most of the rhino in Liwonde National Park, as well as to setting up a rhino monitoring team with a vehicle to assist Malawi National Parks in surveillance and conducting anti-poaching patrols. Rhino have been successfully conserved in Liwonde National Park in the past, but still exist only at fairly low numbers, so this project needs to be maintained until numbers reach higher levels
GET INVOLVED TODAY
You have the chance to really make a difference in the lives of the Liwonde Black Rhino of Malawi. FIRE has teamed up with Wilderness Safaris Wildlife Trust and Resources First Foundation which is a 501(c)3 so your donation will be tax deductible!