Snab As Biology Coursework Ideas For Easter



Issue Report- Conservation of the Black Rhino.

Native to eastern and central Africa, including places such as Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon and Zimbabwe, the black rhinoceros is classified as critically endangered, with one subspecies, the western Black Rhinoceros, declared extinct by the IUCN in 2011. For an extensive period of the twentieth century, the continental black rhinoceros was one of the most numerous of all the species of rhino. The severity of this issue is proven by the figures that have been gathered to show the rapid decline of numbers. During the 1960s, the population of Black Rhinoceros’ was around 70,000, however just 21 years later in 1981, that number decreased by roughly 55,000 to 60,000, leaving between 10,000 and 15,000 rhinos. [1] During the earlier half of the 1990s, the number of Black Rhinoceros was as low as just under 2,500, and by the year 2004, it had been reported that the number stood at a shocking 2,410. These figures clearly outline the seriousness of the decline and provides the reason as to why there are several conservation methods working to help save this beautiful creature.

There are four sub-species that are recognised: Southern-central black rhino, currently the most numerous of the species. They are classified as critically endangered. There is also the South-western black rhino which is too classed as critically endangered. The Eastern African black rhino has a smaller but growing population in Tanzania but is currently stronghold in Kenya, this sub-species is also classified as critically endangered. Finally, there is the West African black rhino, which is sadly classified as ‘Probably Extinct’.

Figure 1- Black Rhino Decline

This graph, taken from WWF in 2004 shows the extreme decline in the number of Black Rhinos from 1969 to 2004. According to the graph there is a decrease of roughly 66,000 rhinos in just 35 years. This correlates with the data above and due to the fact it’s originally taken from WWF, it’s most likely to be a reliable source of information. [2]

Why is the Black Rhino declining?

The black rhino has declined so drastically and so rapidly to the brink of extinction for several reasons. The most common being due to human intervention including the illegal poaching for their horn. To the lesser extent, the numbers have decreased as a result of the destruction of their habitat. It is clear that the rhino has suffered extensively for several decades.

A major culpable market for the use to rhino horn has historically been tracked to Arab nations who use the horns for the production of ornately carved handles for ceremonial daggers called jambiyas. In the 1970s, the demand for these handles increased greatly, resulting in the number of black rhinoceros declining by 96% between 1970 and 1992.[3] This is further supported by the evidence suggested in the first paragraph and provides an explanation for the severe decrease in numbers. Said by herbalists to be able to cure fevers, revive comatose patients and aid male sexual stamina and fertility, the horn of the Black Rhino is also used in traditional Chinese medicine; however the herbal properties have yet to be proven by medical science. C.A Spinage, in 1962, appeared to share the belief with Asians that the horn had aphrodisiac properties and many were willing to pay a great deal of money for such a product. However even without any prove that the rhino horn held aphrodisiac properties, it’s the mainstay of TCM and its collection has been held responsible for the deaths of thousands of rhinos across the world. As said by Ann and Steve Toon “For practitioners of traditional Asian medicine, rhino horn is not perceived as a frivolous love potion, but as an irreplaceable pharmaceutical necessity.” Eric Dinerstein (2003) concurs: “In fact, traditional Chinese medicine never has used rhinoceros horn as an aphrodisiac: this is a myth of the Western media and in some parts of Asia is viewed as a kind of anti-Chinese hysteria.”[4] This clearly suggests that one major component for the poaching of Black Rhinos is for it’s somewhat medicinal properties. It is also suggested that European Hunting is indeed an issue. There have been various accounts of five or six Black Rhinos being killed a day, either to be eaten, or to a more serious and sadistic extent, simply for one’s amusement.

Habitat loss is also a contributor towards the deaths of so many Black Rhinos. Many countries that once held a great deal of Black Rhinos such as, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan in Africa, have now lost their entire population. One of the most obvious declines is due to the clearance of land for human settlement and agricultural production. [5]The Black Rhino is being forced out of its natural habitat in order to accommodate human interests, without taking into consideration the effect it has on the Rhino. Logging, both authorised and illegal is an issue, as it’s once again destroying the habitat of the Rhino. Another, perhaps less, reason as to why the number of Black Rhinos is being affected is due to political conflict. In various locations, where the normal law and order has been disintegrated, it has become increasingly easier for poachers to kill the Black Rhino along with other endangered species. This is particularly notable in example of where political conflict has correlated with a rise in Rhino poaching including the Democratic Republic of Congo Zimbabwe and Nepal. [6]



WWF has been working within Rhino conservation and management in Africa for almost 50 years. They are working to increase the numbers using a series of biological methods. This includes:

-Establishing new areas for the Rhino that are protected.
-Expanding the existing protected areas and improving their management.
-Improving security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching.
-Improving local and international law enforcement to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal wildlife trade items from Africa to other regions of the world.
-Promoting well managed wildlife-based tourism experiences that will also provide additional funding for conservation efforts.[7]

WWF are tackling the illegal wildlife trade as one method of conserving the Rhino. They are setting up an African-wide rhino database with the use of rhino horn DNA analysis (RhoDIS). This contributes to forensic investigations at the area of the crime and contributes to court evidence in order to strengthen the prosecution cases. It has been circulated into law as legal evidence in courts and rhino management in place such as South Africa and Kenya. This method is done with institutions such as the University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. WWF also worked with the government and other partners in Namibia in order to create the development of new transmitters which would track movements of the rhino and protect them against poachers and hunters. As well as this, and confidential phone hotline was set up and promoted that allows people to inform the authority about poaching in a safe and anonymous environment. Due to WWF and the Government of Namibia and Mobile Telecommunications Limited, Rhino poaching within Namibia has decreased. The world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network has contributed significantly to the bilateral law enforcement efforts between South Africa and Vietnam. This has been done with written commitments in order to strengthen ports and bordering monitoring as well as information sharing to disrupt the illegal trade chain activities and bring the culprits to justice as a result of their crime against the rhino population. [8]

The number of arrests in 2010 was 165, whereas in 2013 it was as little as 46. [12] This data suggests that there has been a success in reducing the number of poachers, which according to this table has clearly decreased. This source was taken from a website aimed specifically at stopping the poaching of rhinos and so the reliability of the data should be high. The website states the origin of their information- ‘Issued by the DEA on 28th Feb 2013.’ meaning their data can be traced back to the DEA to confirm such statistics.

Figure 2- Arrests for poaching in South Africa.

WWF have also aimed to strengthen local and international law enforcement. They support accredited training and environmental and crime courses; some of these have been adopted by South Africa Wildlife College. In countries such as Kenya and South Africa, prospectors have been appointed in order to prosecute rhino crimes with the aim of dealing with the mounting arrests and bring the criminals to justice with commensurate penalties.

WWF African Rhino Programme

WWF adopted a strategic and provocative approach in 1997 in order to help to conserve the Black Rhino is the most effective way possible; this was through the African Rhino Programme. Originally, WWF’s approach to rhino conservation was primarily directed towards large protected areas which historically held a large number of rhinos is vast tracts of undisturbed land. However, they came to the realisation that not enough was being done as a result of the resources available being far too narrow. The African Rhino Programme coordinates and implements WWF’s efforts towards the in situ management and conservation of the rhinos. This responsibility is shared amongst many other partners such as government bodies, various other conservation groups and NGOs, the private sector and local communities.[9]

Black Rhino Range Expansion Project

Another conservation method is through the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project. The partnership is between WWF, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Board. This project aims to increase the numbers of black rhino as well as the growth rate. This is done through facilitating partnerships between landowners with a significant black rhino habitat. The project began in 2003 and since the introduction of it; there have been 8 new black rhino populations created in South Africa. These populations and situated in Kwazulu-Natal and Limpopo, totalling to a land cover of 160,000ha. Due to this project, nearly 130 black rhinos have been translocated. As well as creating new populations, this project supports the security of black rhino populations by providing anti-poaching work equipment, paying for helicopter hours for the vets who go out to treat the snared black rhino and finally by paying for rhino monitors and purchasing light aircraft for aerial surveillance.

South Africa’s Kruger National Park

Black Rhino conservation in South Africa’s Kruger National Park is also working towards saving the black rhino. In this park, there is a 100,000ha study area in the high density Southern part where a helicopter survey is completed annually. Each black rhino is photographed and the relevant age and sex is recorded. A total of 74 rhinos were counted during the 1998 census, all marked with ear-notches. Kruger National Park is almost 2,000,000ha in size and has the capacity to hold up to 2,500 more rhinos. This park is considered to be of great importance in the conservation of the black rhino due to the fact it’s only one of few reserves that is able to accommodate a genetically and demographically viable population of black rhinos. The overall objectives of the performance within this park are as follows:

-Monitor the annual black rhino population performance in the Kruger National Park.
-Mark sub-adult black rhinos in the high density area with ear notches in order to monitor their dispersal and individual life history.
-Complete and electronic database of the 10 years of black rhino demographic data recorded in the high density study area.
-Enhance rhino security in the Kruger National Park through the procurement of specialised equipment.
-Facilitate the veterinary treatment of injured black rhinos.
-Monitor the success of translocation of black rhinos from Kwazulu-Natal to Kruger Park.

Figure 3- Annual population estimates

[22]The graph above clearly provides evidence for the fact that ear-notching was indeed on the increase in order to help conserve the black rhino and collect data on the numbers in which they have in certain areas.
This source was taken from a report called Population Performance of Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in Six Kenyan Rhino Sanctuaries, written in 2004. This was a time when the number of rhinos was at its lowest, and so the performance expressed by this graph is indeed an achievement worth noting. The validity and reliability of this source is indeed factual as the reference clearly links to the correct information.

Rhino conservation in Namibia

The A level Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology (SNAB) course was designed to introduce key ideas in advanced biology through interesting contexts and applications. Context-based approaches to teaching science such as SNAB have been favoured because they motivate and interest students.

This study focused on the under-researched question of whether these approaches result in different or better performance, compared to more traditional concept-based approaches.

It found that students following a mixed approach to teaching biology, where their teachers often drew on both context and concept approaches, performed better than students following either mainly context-based or concept-based approaches.

Students following a context-based (SNAB-style) approach to studying biology at advanced level do as well in examinations as students following a more traditional concept-led approach. 

  • It is likely that a mixed approach is part of the advantages already attributable to selective and independent schools. These could include greater purchasing power for textbooks by parents and the school and the ability to draw on a wider range of in-school and out-of-school facilities for teaching and professional development.
  • Teachers’ choices of approach are determined by the interaction of three clusters of factors. These clusters are concerned with: external factors, student factors and teacher factors.
  • A factor the study could not evidence but that is likely to be important, is the extent of the cohesiveness of teaching teams and their ability to act as professional communities sharing and reflecting on the suitability and efficacy of teaching approaches and resources.
  • Having one specification for Biology, that could be taught by one or the other or a mixture of teaching approaches, has opened up a professional space for teachers’ decision making. Teachers that might not otherwise have seen the benefits of teaching using the types of student-centred, interactive activities that SNAB has invested in and developed, have been exposed to new ideas.

The report also includes recommendations for schools, awarding bodies and for teachers’ professional development.

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