BITS 'N' PIECES
In the early 1900s, the Bornean rhinoceros was common throughout its range, but over the course of a few decades this species experienced severe population declines. The 1930s brought about a huge wave of hunting by locals who killed the rhinos, trading their horns with China for use in traditional medicine. This practice drove the rhino to the brink of extinction, and its struggle to survive continues today. Despite studies that have proven that rhino horn has no medicinal value, the market for rhino horn has persisted, and poachers continue to decimate the species’ population. Data indicates that this species is now extinct in east Malaysia and most of Kalimantan, with the remaining population-less than 20 individuals.
The largest of the zebra species, Grevy’s zebras have long, slender legs and hoofed feet that allow them to run quickly, avoiding fast-moving predators. Their big ears and long, narrow heads give them a mule-like appearance, and large eyes set far back on their heads provide them with a wide field of vision and the ability to spot movement at great distances. They are well adapted for living in arid and semi-arid lands comprised of grass and shrub and can go without water for up to five days. Historically this species was hunted for its meat and attractive skin. To help increase the number of Grevy’s zebras, Kenya banned all hunting of zebras in 1977 and all trading of wildlife products in 1978. Ethiopia has also legally protected this species
They may not have the speed of the cheetah or the sheer brawn of the lion, but leopards have their own superpowers. There’s their famed adaptability, which sees to it that these flexible felines can acclimate to a range of landscapes, even ones heavily modified by humans.
And then there’s that stealthy ability to go unnoticed, to slink their way ghost-like on the edges of perception. It’s a powerful combination for a wild creature. But perhaps it’s that very inconspicuousness, and our impression of them as so resiliently adaptable, that can make us overlook just how vulnerable these cats are to a growing number of threats. It is on our watch, after all, that leopards have lost huge swaths of their territory and many populations have suffered alarming declines. It is time we pay more attention.
Compiled by SZ