Rhinoceroses are universally recognized by their massive bodies, stumpy legs and either one or two dermal horns. In some species, the horns may be short or not obvious.
Although not inclined to approaching humans, rhinos may exhibit bursts of aggressiveness. Fortunately for their enemies, their poor eyesight prevents them from making targeted attacks. Their sense of smell and hearing however is well developed.
Rhinos mark their territory by depositing dung. During the day, the animals may rest several kilometers from their waterholes under dense cover, only becoming active in the evening, through the night, and in the early morning . Rhinos are known to sleep both standing and lying on the ground and are fond of wallowing in muddy pools and sandy river beds.
Threats to rhinos
Demand for rhino horn the greatest threat
Although international trade in rhino horn has been banned under CITES
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1977, demand remains high – fueling rhino poaching in both Africa and Asia.
Demand in Yemen for rhino horn dagger handles, worn as status symbols, grew in the 1970s and a 20-fold rise in the price of rhino horn had a devastating effect on rhino (mostly black) populations.
Rhino horn is also used in traditional Asian medicine to treat a variety of ailments. There has been a recent surge in demand for rhino horn in Viet Nam, where it is being touted as a hangover cure and treatment for terminal illnesses.
Although some traditional medical practitioners are using alternatives, a TRAFFIC
survey of medical practitioners showed that 60% stocked rhino horn and 27% maintained that it was essential to their work.
Habitat loss another major concern
Habitat loss also threatens rhinos, especially in southeast Asia and India, as human populations rise and forests are degraded or destroyed.
Important core conservation areas are increasingly isolated by logging, agricultural expansion, human settlements, road projects, and dam construction.