Black rhino declared extinct in West Africa

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has published an update to its “Red List” of threatened animals, and the news was grim for a number of species across the planet – especially the rhinoceros. The organization has declared the wild black rhino extinct in West Africa, and says that a number of other subspecies of rhinos may already be gone as well.

IUCN officials say that poaching is to blame for the loss of the black rhino, whose horn is seen as highly valuable in traditional medicines and remedies across parts of Asia. Demand for those horns on the black market is so high, that poachers are willing to face stiff jail terms, or even death, in order to acquire them. As a result, this particular subspecies has been hunted to extinction in West Africa, where there are few security measures in place to protect the creatures.

The Red List also warns of the potential loss of the northern white rhino, which calls central Africa home. The IUCN believes that it is also on the brink of extinction, as is the Javan rhino, which is no longer found outside of Java as well.

According to the organization, 25% of the world’s mammal species are now in danger of becoming extinct, despite conservation efforts across the planet. They also warn that 40% of Madagascar’s reptiles are at risk, although new conservation zones there have helped to ease a possible impending disaster there.

All is not lost however, as the latest IUCN report also cites the success of the re-introduction of the Przewalski’s horse into the wild. The animal was also declared extinct outside of captivity back in 1996, but careful management has allowed the creature to be reintroduced to their natural habitat along the steppes of China and Mongolia. The herds are now believed to have grown to more than 300 in number.

The hope is that a similar program could eventually be used to bring the rhino back to its home as well. Before that can happen however, the threat of poaching needs to be quashed once and for all.

National Park Service to help create standards to protect parks globally

The U.S. National Park Service has joined forces with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to develop a set of standards for park rangers, managers, and other administrative officials working in national parks around the globe. According to a press release from the NPS, the plan is to create a set of guidelines to aid nations in effectively managing their protected areas, while still recognizing that those efforts often take place under very challenging circumstances.

This new partnership will begin with David Reynolds, a 33-year veteran of the Park Service, creating a set of professional standards for men and women working on conservation projects in a wide variety of environments around the world. The hope is to build a “globally recognized” set of qualifications in the area of environmental management that will help them to be more efficient in their jobs. The project is expected to take approximately 40 months to complete and will require visits to protected parks and training centers around the globe.

Reynolds knows that he has a huge challenge ahead of him. He says that he not only has to create effective tools for measuring results, but must do so within the tight budgetary constraints that most countries face. He also knows that he’ll have to walk a thin line between creating a program that is both effective in the field and flexible in the classroom.

If the project is successful, park rangers and managers around the world may have a well designed set of guidelines that will help them protect their national parks in a more effective and efficient way. Climate change, urban development, deforestation, and other threats continue to be an issue, but perhaps with proper training and planning, some of those threats can be countered in a productive way.