There have been three new rhino calves born at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in the last year, but in the wild their figures are dramatically dropping.
There are three types of rhino at Dubbo zoo- black, white and greater one-horned- all of which are under threat in the wild due to habitat loss and poaching.
Keeper Nerrida Taylor said the zoo marked World Rhino Day by educating its visitors and encouraging them to spread the word about the animal’s plight.
“This is the one day of the year we can really out a spotlight on what is happening to rhino in the world. Their numbers are devastatingly low because they’re getting hunted for their horn,” she said.
The zoo has been running World Rhino Day since 2013. We have done fundraising in the past but this year it’s all about awareness.”
In 2007, 13 rhino were poached for their horn, Ms Taylor said. Last year the figure had increased to 1330, and already this year there have been 530 poached.
“And there are so many we don’t even know about that go unreported. If they don’t find any animal they don’t actually put it as poached because they don’t know,” the keeper said.
Unfortunately, the reason for the increase is unknown.
Ms Taylor said it could be an increase in the number of people who can afford to buy rhino horn, which is sold as an aphrodisiac and an item with medicinal properties.
The misleading information was one of the issues the zoo was using World Rhino Day to campaign against.
“It’s made of keratin. If you’re unwell chew on your fingernails and see what happens, it’s the same thing,” Ms Taylor said.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, as well as being a founding member of the International Rhino Foundation, has breeding programs for all three rhino species at the zoo.
Ms Taylor said they were all ongoing.
The theme for World Rhino Day this year is ‘poach eggs, not rhinos’.
“Rhinos expected to be extinct in the wild in the next five to 10 years. I definitely don’t want to see that in my lifetime,” Ms Taylor said.