The move was triggered after staff from the conservation charity were left ‘sickened’ by the killing of a black rhino at a Kenyan national park – the first poaching incident in well over three years at the zoo-supported reserve.
An adult bull was found dead by rangers working inside Chyulu Hills National Park hours after seven gun shots were heard.
Chester Zoo’s Conservation Officer Scott Wilson said:
“We’ve worked so, so hard with the teams on the ground to protect rhinos in this area and until now, we’d been very successful in doing so. But this killing is a sure sign that the gruesome increase in rhino poaching seen in other areas of Africa is spreading. We’re all completely sickened by this.”
A dramatic surge in poaching had seen the number of black rhinos in Kenya plummet from around 20,000 in 1970 to as few as 500 at present.
But in areas where Chester Zoo is working to conserve the species, very few incidents have occurred until now.
Mr Wilson said:
“Rhinos are facing an unprecedented fight for survival in the wild.
“Chester Zoo’s Act for Wildlife has long supported national parks and sanctuaries in Africa and the rangers, patrol teams and those running them do an incredible job there to protect rhinos.
“But the situation is becoming so dire, the demand for rhino horn so insatiable and rhino poaching such a problem, that we need help.
“Poachers are better equipped than ever, they’re using state-of-the-art weaponry and finding new ways to enter places where rhinos were once safe. That’s why we’ve had to issue an emergency appeal now.
“With extra funds we can stop them. We must stop them.”
A global increase in demand for rhino horn to supply the traditional Asian medicine market, where it is believed to be a cure for everything from nightmares to dysentery, has brought about this alarming hike in poaching.
It is driven by the astonishing street value for rhino horn, which fetches more per gram than gold and cocaine.
Mr Wilson added:
“Rhino horn is merely keratin, the same substance our finger nails are made from – that’s all it is. It has no medicinal properties so it’s ridiculous that these incredible animals are being hunted and killed, in their numbers, for something that has offers no proven health benefits to humans whatsoever.”
Chester Zoo has over a decade’s experience of working with endangered rhinos in the wild. The Sounding the Horn for Rhinos campaign will fund the conservation charity’s work in Africa, where over 60 mainly local staff are working to save rhinos in the community.
To donate, please visit www.actforwildlife.org.uk/get-involved/help (Please note that this page contains images which some people may find disturbing and upsetting).
Every penny given goes directly towards protecting black rhinos in the wild - funding the likes of security posts, fencing, ranger teams and camera traps.