The Congo Basin

Taeeun, Julia, Maddie, Prasant, Riley (period 5)

Recovering Species - White Rhinoceros, Ceratotherium simum

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Habitat and Location

The white rhino lives in the savanna biome. There are two distinct subspecies: the northern white rhino and the southern white rhino. While both species used to be distributed through Chad, Central Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, poaching led to many regions losing their white rhino populations. The southern white rhino is commonly found in South Africa and the Congo and is becoming less threatened. The northern white rhino is concentrated in Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya, but is still an endangered species. However, white rhinos have been bred and repopulated in recent years, which has led to the resurgence of the species.

Ecological Niche

White rhinos graze tall and short grasses and act as the natural “lawn mowers” of their environment. They also eat fruits which and the seeds for reproduction in its manure. Egrets and tickbirds feed off the parasites that live on the skins of the rhinos and serve as a food source for hyenas.

Value

  • ecological: By grazing, rhinos keep their savanna biome in order. Rhinos are also considered a keystone species. The threat of the rhino’s extinction was particularly concerning because it has been found that losses of similar “megaherbivores” have been harbingers for mass extinctions.

  • socio-political: The poaching and near-extinction of the white rhino before it was revived coincides with the ongoing political and ethnic conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • economic: The white rhinos, hunted for their special horn, are an important source of income for some hunters in Africa -- this is why many people poach them. Rhino horns have been historically known for symbolizing wealth and economic prosperity in Asian countries, which has led to more poaching.

  • intrinsic/aesthetic: Rhino horns are made of keratin and contain high levels of various amino acids. In China, there is a high demand for rhino horns because it is sold in many chinese medicine shops. In the western world, Rhino horns are in high demand due to the myth that they are an aphrodisiac and hangover cure.

Causes for Endangerment

In the colonial area, population of white rhinos declined because colonists hunted white rhinos for food and survival. However, in recent years, population of white rhinos has been declining because of poachers who want their horns. These poachers make a profit through the illegal trade of white rhino horns. Also, the myth that powdered horn of white rhinos cure illnesses such as hangovers, fevers, and cancer in Asian countries has been driving up the number of people who illegally hunt these animals. Identified as a symbol of wealth, white rhino horns are in high demand in Asian countries such as Vietnam, further threatening the population of white rhinos in the world. Habitat loss due to agriculture and settlements are also some of the other causes for endangerment of white rhinos.

Consequences of the Loss of Species

Rhinos are known to maintain the diversity in African grasslands in which they inhabit. Because they only graze on specific grass species, they allow the survival of various, edible plants in the grasslands. If white rhino population becomes extinct, the grasslands ecosystems will alter drastically. Also, poachers who make a profit by trading white rhino horns will be hurt economically as they lose their source of revenue.

Rate of Loss

The exact rate of loss is unknown, but white rhino population has been growing over the past century. There were only 50 white rhinos in the 1900s, but the number has grown to over 20,000 in recent years.

Endangered Species - Chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes

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Habitat and Location

The chimpanzee lives in the woody savanna, in Western and Central Africa.


Ecological Niche

Chimpanzees are omnivorous, feeding regularly on fruits, stems, insects, small animals and other food items they can find in their habitats. Chimpanzees will also hunt larger prey, such as pigs, baboons and other primates. They have famously been observed using tools in the wild to gather food, most commonly thin sticks that are used to “fish” termites from their mounds.

Value

Chimpanzees are one of the most similar animals to human beings and are reported to share anywhere between 95 to 99% of our DNA. Chimpanzees feel and express emotions, create close bonds, analyze situations, they are very similar to us. These animals give us a glimpse into human past, including things such as bipedalism and social organization. If they were to be wiped out, so would a link to the evolution of humans. Chimpanzees also play a huge role in their local ecosystems. If Chimpanzees were to go extinct there would be an adverse effect on many other African species. Furthermore, chimpanzees are important seed and pollen dispersers and play a role in helping many plants grow.

Cause for Endangerment

Chimpanzee numbers have dropped drastically over the course of the past fifty years. There were over one million chimpanzees over fifty years ago and that number is only about a tenth of that today. Chimpanzees have been affected greatly by disease as the ebola virus wiped out 98% of chimpanzees in the Congo. Poaching also plays a role in the loss of chimpanzees over the course of the years. This illegal bushmeat is a large source of food in Central and West African countries. Habitat destruction is also leading to the loss of chimpanzees.

Consequences of Loss of the Species

Losing chimpanzees will reflect a huge loss for this planet and for humans. We look at chimpanzees as being one of the species that are our closest relatives. Losing chimpanzees would be like losing a part of the human past. When we attempt to learn how primitive humans learned to walk on two legs or work in social groups we look at chimps. Chimpanzees are very intelligent animals that are used for testing as they closely resemble us, if we no longer have them we lose a testing method. Furthermore, chimpanzees play an integral role in their environment. If they were to go extinct there would be severe losses to the local ecosystem as well as a source of pollination.

Rate of Loss

3.7 percent per year

Extinct Species - Rodrigues Solitaire, Pezophaps solitaria

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Location and Habitat

Rodrigues Solitaires are endemic to the island of Rodrigues. They lived primarily in the island’s woodlands rather than on the shores.

Ecological Niche

Rodrigues Solitaires ate seeds, Latania palm fruit, and foliage. Because the species became extinct as soon as people started inhabiting the island, there is not much information known about the niche of Rodrigues Solitaires.

Value

The Rodrigues Solitaire would eat fruit off of trees, and spread the seeds along the ground, helping these plants to spread and grow. With them extinct, there were no more of these animals to eat the fruits off of the trees, causing the species of tree to go extinct as well.

Causes for Extinction or Endangerment

The bird disappeared after introduction of cats, rats and pigs; also hunted for food. Their inability to fly made them easy to catch, the young ones were considered a particular delicacy.

Consequences of the Loss of the Species

A rare species of tree went extinct not too long after the Rodrigues Solitaire. The Rodrigues Solitaire would eat the fruits off of this tree and would spread the seeds, helping the trees spread and grow.

Works' Cited

"10 Comparisons Between Chimps and Humans - Listverse." Listverse. 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

"ChimpanzeePan Troglodytes." Primate Factsheets: Chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes) Conservation. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

"Chimpanzees: How They Have Become an Endangered Species." Guardian Liberty Voice. 13 June 2014. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

"Conservation & Threats." Conservation & Threats. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

"Eastern Black Rhinoceros." Eastern Black Rhinoceros. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Eastern Black Rhinoceros." Eastern Black Rhinoceros. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Poaching for Rhino Horn." Rhino Poaching. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Recently Extinct Animals - Species Info - Rodrigues Solitaire." Recently Extinct Animals - Species Info - Rodrigues Solitaire. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"Support the." Pan Troglodytes (Chimpanzee, Common Chimpanzee, Robust Chimpanzee). Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"WHITE RHINO SAVED FROM EXTINCTION." All About Wildlife RSS. 27 Dec. 2011. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"What Will Happen after the Rhinos Are Gone? - Conservation." Conservation RSS. 19 Feb. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"White Rhinoceroses, White Rhinoceros Pictures, White Rhinoceros Facts - National Geographic." National Geographic. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.

"White Rhinoceros." WWF -. Web. 15 Dec. 2015.