The Black rhino faces a variety of threats. One of the main threats is poaching for the international rhino horn trade. Rhino horn has two main uses; use in traditional Chinese medicine, and ornamental use (for example, rhino horn is a highly prized material for making ornately carved handles for ceremonial daggers (Jambiyas) worn in some Middle East countries).
During the 1960s civil unrest and the free flow of weapons in Africa had a significant impact on African rhino conservation efforts. Black rhino populations in Angola, Central African Republic, Chad, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda have to varying degrees all suffered from the consequences of war and civil unrest since the 1960s. Some detrimental effects include trading of rhino horn and ivory for weapons, increased poaching due to increased poverty in times of civil unrest, and diminished levels of protection for rhino populations as funds are diverted away from wildlife departments. Habitat changes can also cause rhino populations to decline.
Rhino horn has been an integral component of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is ground down, mixed with water and ingested and believed to to be effective in reducing temperature, treating high fevers and convulsions, controlling haemorrhaging and assisting the liver in cleansing the blood of toxins resulting from the intake of alcohol or poison. Trade patterns detected by TRAFFIC indicate that the resurgent demand for rhino horn is driven primarily by users from Vietnam. Increasing prosperity in the Vietnamese economy has led to increased levels of individual disposable income and, sadly, use of rhino horn appears to be a way to demonstrate one’s affluence and high social status.
Threats to eastern Black rhinoceros: Some populations of the eastern Black rhinoceros in enclosed areas appear to be overstocked and are showing clear signs of density-dependent reductions in reproductive performance. In some cases competition from other browsers, such as African elephants Loxodonta africana and Giraffes Giraffa camelopardalis, appears to also be negatively affecting rhinoceros carrying capacity. Limited budgets for conservation are also a problem.
Threats to south-central Black rhinoceros: Conservative biological management appears to have limited metapopulation growth rates in some key populations. In parts of Zimbabwe, land transformation following re-settlement has negatively affected habitat in some areas and has resulted in a number of snare-related deaths. There is a plan to create an additional intensive-protection zone in Zimbabwe. Declining conservation budgets, an apparent increase in poaching and losses of animals to snaring, and the prosecution of rhinoceros offences under statues without deterrent sentences are of concern.
Threats to south-western Black rhinoceros: Illegal hunting has been blamed for the disappearance of the south-western Black rhinoceros from arid habitats in at least two range states (Angola and Botswana). Since 1979 conservation efforts in Namibia have stemmed poaching activities and the population has increased steadily. As in other range states, declining budgets for conservation are a problem.
Threats to Western Black rhinoceros: Poaching, lack of finance, limited anti-poaching efforts, limited local capacity for conservation management, failure of courts to give sentences that can act as a deterrent to potential poachers and genetic / demographic factors all pose serious threats to this subspecies.