International Year of the Rhino Inaugurated by Indonesia
Considering the perilous state of the world's rhinos, and the utterly dire situation for several sub-species, giving rhinos their own year is pretty much the least we can do, but there it is.
Coinciding with World Environment Day (being celebrated in Rio, with TreeHugger on the scene), the government of Indonesia, in cooperation with a number of conservation groups, including WWF, has just declared today the start of the International Year of the Rhino.
WWF sums up the aims of the Year:
During this International Year of the Rhino, it is hoped that all rhino range states in Africa and Asia will join Indonesia and give priority to securing their rhino populations. There are ambitions to bring illegal hunting and trade, especially the illegal trade of rhino horn, under control by ensuring that effective deterrents are in place and enforced. It is also hoped that measures that encourage a rapid growth in rhino numbers will be taken. In Indonesia, extra action will be taken to translocate isolated individuals to actively managed protected areas and improve rhino habitats by removing invasive plant species and providing additional sources of water.
Though pressures on all rhinos are significant—two subspecies have gone extinct in the past 10 years, in Cameroon and in Vietnam—the northern white rhino (pictured above), the mainland population of the Sumatran rhino, and the Javan rhino (video of some of the 35 remaining is below) are critically endangered.
Mongabay has a particularly comprehensive overview of the threats that rhinos face worldwide, as well as an explanation of how species in different regions face different threats:
The factors driving the demise of rhinos are relentless. Over the long term it has been habitat loss, but as the numbers have dwindled, threats have to individual populations have diverged. In Africa, where rhinos are distributed across vast savannas and often occupy unprotected or poorly protected lands, it is demand for rhino horn that mostly directly imperils populations. In Southeast Asia, where rhinos cling precariously to existence in relatively well-protected area, guarded by rangers, it is lack of suitable habitat and low population densities that are the biggest threats.
Considering all the International Years that there have been, perhaps it's time for an International Year of International Years, honoring all the work that all those International Years have done to actually do something about the problem they try to draw attention to... or maybe not.