Asian rhinos

Of the 3 Asian rhino species – Sumatran, Javan and greater one-horned – only one is showing signs of conservation success. Loss of habitat and the ongoing threat of poaching continue to push these animals to the brink.
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Young Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis); Royal Chitwan National Park, Terai Arc Landscape, Nepal.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

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Key Facts

  • Species

    Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), Javan rhino (R. sondaicus), Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)

  • Habitat

    Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs and shrublands, to tropical moist forests

  • Status

    Vulnerable to Critically Endangered

  • Population

    About 3,200

Mysterious and very low in numbers

Two of the three Asian rhino species hover on the brink of extinction 

Historically hunted for their horn, a prized ingredient in traditional Asian medicines, and devastated by the destruction of their lowland forest habitat, Asian rhino populations are now distressingly small.

These animals are among the world’s most endangered. One species numbers no more than 50 individuals, while some subspecies number just a few.

Throughout their range, their habitat continues to dwindle fast due to illegal logging and other human pressures, and the threat of poaching is ever-present.

Greater one-horned rhino

Also known as the Indian rhino, the greater one-horned rhino is enjoying the greatest conservation success.

Its original range extended from Pakistan all the way through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar. However in 1975, only 600 remained.

Decades of conservation efforts saw the population rise to 2,575 individuals by 2007, and a reclassification from endangered to vulnerable.  Thanks in part to WWF's range expansion and translocation programmes, today there are more than 2,900 of the animals.  When given sufficient habitat, rhinos will breed and increase in number. 

The species is found in the Terai Arc Landscape of India and Nepal and the grasslands of Assam and north Bengal, northeast India. 

Greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) / ©: WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller
Greater one-horned or Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis)
© WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller

Javan rhino

The critically endangered Javan rhino is probably the rarest large mammal species in the world.

Also known as the lesser one-horned rhino, the species historically roamed from north-eastern India through Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, and the islands of Sumatra and Java in Indonesia.

Today, no more than 50 individuals are thought to survive in the wild. There are none in captivity.

Only one subspecies remains and is restricted to Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia.  The Vietnamese subspecies of Javan rhino has been pronounced extinct after the last remaining individual was found dead with its horn removed.

Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) / ©: WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller
Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
© WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller

Sumatran rhino

The Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino is the smallest rhino species and the only Asian rhino with two horns.

Also called the lesser two-horned rhino or hairy rhino, the species once ranged from north-eastern India through Indochina, Malaysia, and the islands of Sumatra in Indonesia and Borneo, which is shared by Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Its numbers are thought to have at least halved between 1985 and 1995.

Today, the population is estimated at fewer than 200 individuals, located in small pockets of Sumatra, peninsular Malaysia, and Borneo. The Borneo population is considered a distinct subspecies, numbering perhaps fewer than 25 animals.

Sumatran rhinoceros / ©: WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller
Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
© WWF-Canon / Helmut Diller

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