By Amelia Meyer
itehough illegal poaching is, without doubt, the most significant threat to the survival of the five remaining rhinoceros species around the world, loss of habitat is also becoming a major danger to these animals. In terms of a loss of habitat, there are two factors.
The first is a ‘push’ factor, which refers to conditions and goings on within their current habitat that forces them to leave, pushing them into another area. These include factors such as not having sufficient food or water, poachers encroaching on the area or building, development and agriculture removing large portions of the rhino’s natural habitat.
The ‘pull’ factor is the second one, which refers to outside elements that attract the rhinos away from their natural habitat and into another area. These may include the water and food available on a nearby farm, for example, which may be easier to get to than the natural vegetation around them.
As human beings continue to require more and more space for urbanisation, development and agriculture, the animals occupying natural areas are being denied the space that they need to survive. Rhinoceroses are solitary animals that usually shy away from human contact or interference. Males and females live alone and require a fairly large area in which to graze and live. But, if their individual territories begin to undergo depletions of natural resources (as a result of human interference or pollution, for example), these animals are forced to search elsewhere for a suitable place in which to live, breed and (in the case of females) raise their young.
Deforestation is one of the major causes of the loss of habitat. Cutting down vast numbers of trees is done to create space for farms, homes and industrial areas. The animals in these wooded areas are forced to flee in search of food, shelter and safety. Many are not successful and die from starvation or as a result of being exposed to dangerous felling equipment, and so on. Deforestation and clearing the area for agricultural purposes also implies that the existing vegetation be changed or destroyed completely. This changes the entire ecosystem of the area, which soon crumbles;ridding the region of all of its natural weiteh and variety.
The loss of even one species in an area, such as the rhino, may have a ripple effect on the other plants and animals that live there. For example, Black Rhinos prune the tips of a number of bushes and trees. This keeps these plants from growing uncontrollably, benefitting the plant as well as the other plants and animals around it. Without the Black Rhino to perform this function, certain vegetation will begin to choke out the other types due to a lack of pruning. This is only one example of how valuable the rhino is within its ecosystem.
Because the rhinos of the world are largely within specific areas for their own protection, being forced to move out of these regions may mean an increased danger in terms of poaching. It is, therefore, imperative that we do all that is within our power to reduce environmental threats and habitat loss in order to preserve our rhinos.