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Extinctions, genetic erosion and conservation options for the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

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I’ve just been reading this interesting paper on black rhino genetics a subject that was evidently poorly understood, piecing together the genetic history of these animals has been made very difficult due to the rapid and catastrophic decline in their population.

 

Extinctions, genetic erosion and conservation options for the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

 

It is interesting to see the distribution that they have gone with; I believe there is s till a question mark over the distribution of black rhinos in West Africa, my understanding is that there is really still no definitive proof for the presence of black rhinos further west than North Eastern Nigeria and the far west of Niger basically the region around Lake Chad.  Whereas their map shows rhinos as far west as Benin and Burkina Faso, some other maps online show rhinos as far west as Senegal. The only actual evidence of black rhinos much further west than Lake Chad is some rhino spoor that the 19th century German explorer Heinrich Barth allegedly found on the east bank of the Niger River in 1853, I would guess somewhere between Niamey and ‘W’ National Park. Barth was familiar with rhinos having encountered them near Lake Chad but did not believe they occurred so far west he never saw the actual animal only its spoor. This is of course all sadly somewhat academic now as black rhinos are entirely extinct in Western and Central Africa now, the rhinos due to be reintroduced into Zakouma NP in Chad next year will be coming from South Africa

 

I’m not sure if I’ve posted this before but here’s a paper on the distribution of the black rhino in West Africa.

 

Historical distribution of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in West Africa

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I guess I didn't pay quite enough attention when I looked at Rookmaaker's rhino distribution paper having read it before and had it in my mind that Heinrich Barth found his rhino spoor on the east bank of the Niger River, but then consulting the Mammals of Africa I discovered when it was too late to go back and change it that it was in fact west of the river. The paper includes the coordinates of where he found the alleged spoor, out of curiosity I copied them and pasted them into Google Earth and this took me to a spot somewhere to the south west of Niamey. I guess this is the right place but the one previous time when I've typed some GPS coordinates into Google Earth it took me to the right area but not exactly the right spot when I zoomed in, it appeared to be some miles out. I guess though we will never know whether there really was a rhino in this area. Interestingly the 2nd edition of the Kingdon Field Guide has a map that shows a very similar distribution to that in the genetics paper suggesting a very slightly larger distribution in the West, where as the Mammals of Africa doesn't have a historical distribution map but in the text cites Rookmaaker's research on rhino distribution in West Africa suggesting the Lake Chad area as the likely western limit.

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