Global warming threatens rhinos
According to the Exploring Temperature and Precipitation Changes under Future Climate Change Scenarios for Black and White Rhinoceros Populations in Southern Africa report, rhinos will not be able to survive the higher temperatures predicted for Southern Africa.
The report was published in the science journal Biodiversity.
Scientists say poaching syndicates are not the only threat to the survival of rhinos, but also climate change. The Southern African region's climate is changing rapidly due to global warming.
According to the scientists, rhinos lack sweat glands and cool themselves by splashing in pools of water and finding shade under trees.
So far, the focus has only been on the anti-poaching of rhinos, with little research being done on the effects that climate change may have on already dwindling numbers.
Prof. Timothy Randhir from the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in America and student Hlelowenkhosi Mamba, a science teacher from the Free Evangelical Assemblies High School in Eswatini, are the researchers. They warn that the climate models they used in their research indicate that temperatures in Southern Africa will rise even further, while rainfall patterns are also changing.
According to the scientists' studies, black and white rhinos will be able to survive the changing rainfall patterns, but not the rising warmer temperatures.
The main author of the report, Mamba, says she and Randhir focused in particular on five large national parks in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and Eswatini.
According to the researchers, the Etosha National Park will be hit hardest, as will the Hlane National Park in Eswatini.
The scientists' conclusion is that rhinos are not that sensitive to the change in rainfall, but that these endangered animals will not be able to survive in a temperature rise of 4°C.
They warn rhino keepers to be on the lookout for stress among rhinos. Among other things, provision must be made for enough waterholes in which rhinos can cool off and the preservation of trees to provide coolness.
According to the researchers, migration routes are important so that rhinos can move from the hot to cooler areas.
The veterinarian and founder of the Rhino Rescue Project, Dr Charles van Niekerk, says the governments will have to take policy on the exports of rhinos into account due to the necessity of migration to cooler areas.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Africa has experienced a temperature rise of 0.5 °C to 2 °C over the past century.
Forecasts indicate that the temperature of this continent will rise by up to 2.8 °C by 2055 and by up to 4.6 °C by 2085 due to the increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If the temperature rises by 4.6 °C, rhinos will already be extinct. – [email protected]