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Western black rhino officially extinct

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Africa's western black rhino (AP)

The western black rhino has officially become extinct, reports CNN. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which compiles an annual Red List of Threatened Species, this subspecies of the African rhinoceros was last spotted in 2006.

The two greatest threats facing the western black rhino, the report notes, have been increased poaching and a lack of conservation efforts. According to a statement released by the IUCN, rhino poaching shot up by almost 50 percent between 2011 and 2012, with nearly 2,400 killed by hunters across Africa since 2006.

“Well-organized and well-funded crime syndicates are continuing to feed the growing black market with rhino horn,” said Mike Knight, chairman of the Species Survival Commission's African Rhino Specialist Group, in the statement.

The IUCN, the world’s largest conservation network, also warned that Africa’s northern white rhino and Asia’s Javan rhino could face similar fates if preventive measures are not taken immediately.

Such conservation efforts have paid off in the past, the group says. The southern white rhino was threatened by extinction in the late 19th century, but conservation measures, which included the maintenance of their natural habitats, helped revive the dwindling population to an estimated 20,000.

The IUCN also cited the importance of political participation in making these efforts work.

"The rhino community is encouraged by the signing of a recent Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa and Vietnam to address the rhino poaching epidemic as well as other conservation issues," said Simon Stuart, chair of the group's Species Survival Commission. "However, it needs to be reinforced with tangible government action on both sides."

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