The majestic Cape rhinoceros – lost to history

The majestic Cape rhinoceros – lost to history

In this week’s #SpeciesInFocus we celebrate World Rhino Day by looking back at the sad history of the southern black rhinoceros (D. b. bicornis) in the Cape. Few are aware that the southern black rhinoceros was once abundant in the Cape of Good Hope, but due to habitat destruction and excessive hunting the subspecies, know as the Cape rhinoceros, was completely eliminated from the Cape around 1850.

There are very early recordings of rhinoceros in the Cape. The first “official” recording being found in a report from the survivors of the Haerlem shipwreck, off Table Bay, who speak of “shooting and eating rhinoceros”. A report handed in to Jan van Riebeek in September 1652 also includes a rather amusing rhino sighting: “Saw two rhinoceroses which charged us and threatened to destroy us, but God protected us. Jan Verdonck had to abandon his hat and sword…” But of course long before these accounts there are San paintings in the Cape that depict rhino.

It is sad to think that humans led to the destruction of these majestic animal in the Cape. This World Rhino Day let us learn from our past and stand together as we fight for the survival of these majestic beasts.

Sarah-Leigh Watson

After qualifying with a BA in Journalism and African History from Rhodes University, Sarah went on to qualify as a FGASA registered Game Ranger where she spent time in the South African Lowveld pursuing her passion for wildlife photography and nature conservation. Sarah joined TMF as a private consultant in 2011, to manage the Fund’s communications and marketing needs. Having grown up in the shadow of Table Mountain, Sarah is deeply passionate about the conservation of the mountain and the broader Cape Floral Region.