According to estimates by African countries, there were more rhinos in Africa last year. According to this information, the number has increased by a good five percent to around 23,300, reported the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on World Rhino Day on Friday.

Nevertheless, rhinos are still threatened by poachers. At least 551 were killed illegally on the African continent last year, the IUCN said. The biggest problem was in South Africa, which also has the largest rhino population.

The animals are hunted by poachers because of their distinctive horns. Contrary to all scientific studies, the material is said to have healing powers or potency-enhancing effects, especially in Asia. Like fingernails, the horn is made of the substance keratin.

According to the data collected, the number of white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) has increased for the first time since 2012, to around 16,800. The number of black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) also increased to around 6,500. The IUCN attributes this to better protective measures. “With this good news, we can breathe a sigh of relief for the first time in ten years,” said Michael Knight, chairman of the rhino group in the IUCN. “But it is essential to consolidate this positive development and build on it and not become careless.”

Rhinos protect the habitats of other animals

Rhinos are important for biodiversity because they protect habitats for other animals, according to the IUCN. In addition, residents could create local jobs with rhinos as a tourist attraction.

The IUCN is an umbrella organization whose members are active in the field of nature conservation. These include, among others, states as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Many protected areas in Africa are financed by hunting revenue, says Stephan Wunderlich, spokesman for the International Council for Game Conservation and Hunting (CIC). More than half of the rhinos are in private hands. Income from the regulated hunting of species such as buffalo or antelope – and, as Wunderlich says, in very rare cases also of a rhino bull approved for this purpose – would be invested directly into rhino protection.

The non-profit foundation African Parks has bought the largest breeding facility of white rhinos from a private company in northwest South Africa, Platinum Rhino. She wants to try to release the approximately 2,000 rhinos back into the wild in the coming years.