/ ©: Michael Raimondo / WWF

Saving rhinos

Rhinos once roamed throughout Eurasia and Africa, and were known to early Europeans who depicted them in cave paintings.

Within historical times, they were still widespread across Africa's savannas and Asia's tropical forests.

But today, very few rhinos survive outside national parks and reserves.
 / ©: National Geographic Stock / Michael Nichols / WWF
© National Geographic Stock / Michael Nichols / WWF
The 5 rhino species in Africa and Asia. Left to right: Greater one-horned rhino; black rhino; ... rel=
The 5 rhino species in Africa and Asia. Left to right: Greater one-horned rhino; black rhino; Sumatran rhino; white rhino; Javan rhino.
© L to R: Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon; Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon; WWF-Indonesia / Gert Polet; Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon; WWF Greater Mekong

How you can help

Among the most endangered species

Of the three Asian rhino species, two – Javan rhinos and Sumatran rhinos – are critically endangered. After the extinction of Javan rhino in Viet Nam in 2010, only one small population of Javan rhinos remains, in Java, Indonesia, with fewer than 50 individuals. 

Successful conservation efforts have seen the third species, the greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino increase in number, leading to a reclassification from endangered to vulnerable. Even so, the species is still poached for its horn.

Different subspecies of the two African rhino species are similarly faring differently.

Once thought to be extinct, southern white rhinos are now thriving in well-protected sanctuaries and are classified as near threatened. In contrast, the northern white rhino only survives as a remnant population of 4 individuals.

Black rhinos have increased over the past decade or so, although total numbers are still a fraction of what they were 50 years ago and one subspecies is likely extinct.
African species
  • Black Rhino: 4,880 (2010)
    IUCN Red List Classification: Critically Endangered
  • White Rhino: Approx 20,000, up from fewer than 100 in 1900
    IUCN Red List Classification: Near Threatened


Asian species
 
  • Greater-one horned: 2,913 
    IUCN Red List Classification: Vulnerable
  • Javan: No more than 50
    IUCN Red List Classification: Critically Endangered
  • Sumatran: Fewer than 200
    IUCN Red List Classification: Critically Endangered

RHINO INFOGRAPHIC

 / ©: WWF
What's at stake?

Physical description

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.

Rhino videos







 

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What is WWF doing?

WWF is one of the few organizations attempting to tackle all threats to rhinos: strengthening protected areas in Africa and Asia, lobbying to halt the illegal timber trade that threatens rhino habitat, and stamping out the illegal trade in rhino horn.

How you can help

Virtual Gifts

Virtual Gifts / ©: WWF

Did you know?

    • Rhinos are one of the "Big 5" animals popular on African safaris. They can therefore contribute to economic growth and sustainable development through the tourism industry, which creates job opportunities and provides tangible benefits to local communities living alongside rhinos.
       
    • In almost all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. While protecting rhinos, other species such as elephant, buffalo, predators and small game are often also conserved.
       
    • Egrets and other birds can be found with rhinos, feeding on the species external parasites. 

Infographic

  •  The WWF Wildlife Crime Scorecard report selects 23 range, transit and consumer countries from Asia and Africa facing the highest levels of illegal trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts.

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