Threats to Asian rhinos

Poaching

The greatest threat by far to Asian rhino populations is poaching.

Although there is no scientific proof of its medical value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, where it is ground into a fine powder or manufactured into tablets as a treatment for a variety of illnesses such as nosebleeds, strokes, convulsions, and fevers.

As a result, poachers continue to kill the animals to take the horn, despite increased surveillance and protection.
 

Habitat loss

Greater one-horned rhino

Conservation efforts have seen the number of greater one-horned (or Indian) rhinos grow from 600 to 2,575 since 1975. At the same time, tree growth has reduced the rhinos’ grassland habitat, and the human population has also grown. This has led to conflict between rhinos and people over the remaining available non-forest areas.

In this reduced living space, rhinos have destroyed farm crops and caused some human casualties, and humans have retaliated against the animals.

Sumatran & Javan rhinos

The same problem exists for the other 2 Asian rhino species, with slightly different parameters.

The issue leading to conflict with humans is not that trees are reducing grassland, but that land-clearing is reducing the rhinos’ tropical forest habitat.

This habitat loss not only reduces the available living space for rhinos, but also isolates and fragments rhino herds, making reproduction and genetic mixing difficult to impossible.
 

Dead Indian rhino on the ground / ©: WWF
Greater one-horned rhino killed for its horn. Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
© WWF

Habitat loss and conflict with humans over living space is a significant problem for all 3 Asian rhino species

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST
Forests in Sumatra, Indonesia, are logged for the paper industry and cleared for palm oil plantations.
© WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST

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