Northern white rhinoceros

With only 4 individuals remaining, the survival prospects for the northern white rhino seem bleak.
 / ©: National Geographic Stock / Michael Nichols / WWF
© National Geographic Stock / Michael Nichols / WWF
Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic ... rel=
Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni), Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
© Kes & Fraser Smith / WWF-Canon

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Key facts

  • Common Names

    Northern white rhinoceros; Rhinocéros blanc du Nord (Fr); Rinoceronte (Sp)

  • Scientific Name

    Ceratotherium simum cottoni

  • Location

    Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Status

    Critically Endangered

    More...

  • Population

    4, in Garamba National Park, DRC

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Still hanging on?

Previous population & distribution
The northern white rhinoceros once occurred in southern Chad, the Central African Republic, southwestern Sudan, northeastern Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and northwestern Uganda. As late as 1960, there were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos remaining.

However widespread poaching decimated the population, and in 1984 only about 15 individuals survived, all in Garamba National Park, DRC.

Under a strict regime of protection in Garamba National Park and through the intervention of the World Heritage Committee, IUCN, WWF, the Frankfürt Zoological Society and the Congolese government, this popuation increased to a minimum of 30 animals by 1993. 

However, an intensive aerial survey of the park carried out in July 2004 counted a minimum population of just 17-22 animals. 

Current population & distribution
Poaching has since decimated the population even further - today, only four individuals remain in the park, although there are unconfirmed reports of a few survivors in southern Sudan.

Thanks to the dedication of park staff through years of armed conflict in the region, the northern white rhino still survives, but the surveys suggest its survival prospects are bleak.

Habitat

Major habitat type
East African Woodland/Savanna

Biogeographic realm
Afrotropical

Range States
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Geographical Location
Central Africa

Ecological Region
Northern Congolian Forest-Savanna Mosaic

Sharing habitat with other illustrious species

Garamba National Park consists of a wide plateau, with isolated rocky hills and marshland depressions. It lies on the watershed area enclosed by the Nile and Zaïre rivers. The park's savannas, grasslands and woodlands, interspersed with gallery forests along the river banks and the swampy depressions, are also home to elephant, giraffe, and hippopotamus.

Rangers risking their lives

The northern white rhino is being killed by heavily-armed poaching gangs, including from neighbouring Sudan.

While park guards are struggling to protect the subspecies, they are risking their lives in the process and several have been killed in anti-poaching operations.

Lawlesness in the eastern part of the DRC has led to widespread attacks on Garamba National Park's infrastructure, with loss of equipment and defection of staff. The site is now back on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Increased support is required for the guard force in the field and appropriate diplomatic initiatives to ensure that peace returns to the region. 
A female northern white rhino is immobilised for radio telemetry. Democratic Republic of Congo. / ©: Kes & Fraser Smith / WWF-Canon
A female northern white rhino is immobilised for radio telemetry. Democratic Republic of Congo.
© Kes & Fraser Smith / WWF-Canon

How you can help

  • Don't buy rhino horn products! Illegal trade in rhino horn is a continuing problem, posing one of the greatest threats to rhinos today.
     
  • Donate towards much-needed anti-poaching equipment and support for rangers across Africa.
    South Africans / Residents of other countries

    Donations will go towards:
    • binoculars
    • radios
    • night-vision gear
    • bullet-proof armour
    • rhino tracking
    • camping equipment
    • training for guards
       All money received will go towards rhino conservation.

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