White rhino (Ceratotherium simum), black rhino (Diceros bicornis)
Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands; deserts and xeric shrublands
Near Threatened to Probably Extinct
Around 24,838 as of December 2010
The African rhino is under serious threat from international poaching syndicates who have, since 2007, intensified poaching of rhino for their horns driven by growing market demands in Asia.
Once common on the African plainsJust 150 years ago, Africa’s savannahs teemed with over a million black and white rhinos.
However, relentless hunting by European settlers saw rhino numbers and distribution quickly decline. Poaching escalated during the 1970s and 1980s as demand grew for rhino horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines and valued for dagger handles in the Middle East.
Thanks to vigorous conservation and anti-poaching efforts, some African rhino populations are now stable or increasing. However, poaching still occurs, and some populations remain very small and threatened. Very few African rhinos now survive outside of protected areas and sanctuaries.
They are now limited to a patchy distribution from Cameroon in the west to Kenya in the east, and south to South Africa.
Conservation efforts have seen the total number of individuals grow from 2,599 in 1997 to 4,848 in 2010.
However, one subspecies, the West African black rhino, is probably extinct, and the other three remain under threat from poaching.
The two white rhino subspecies are faring very differently.
Thought to number around 2,360 in 1960, the Critically Endangered northern white rhino now only survives in Garamba National Park, DRC, where only 4 individuals reportedly remained in mid-2006.
In contrast, the southern white rhino is one of conservation’s greatest success stories. Thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, in 1895 a small population of less than 100 was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. After more than a century of protection and management, the subspecies is now classified as Near Threatened and numbers about 20,000 animals in protected areas and private game reserves.