WWF's work to save Asian rhinos

WWF considers the three Asian rhino species to be ‘flagship species’ - that is, charismatic representatives of the biodiversity of the complex ecosystems they inhabit. Conserving the rhinos and their habitat will also help many other threatened species.


WWF has been working on rhino conservation for over four decades

In 1998, we created the Asian Rhino and Elephant Action Strategy (AREAS) in recognition of the fact that conservation success will only be possible through a wide-ranging approach that goes beyond protecting isolated areas and addresses issues of land-use practices.
Our approach involves:

  • Stopping poachers: We are working with law makers and law-enforcement agencies to actively patrol rhino habitats to prevent poaching, and to pursue, capture, and prosecute any currently active poachers.
     
  • Protecting habitat and reducing human-rhino conflict: We are working with communities to protect forested corridors used by rhinos and other species to move between habitats, and create buffer zones around protected areas and between forests and human settlements and farms.
     
  • Reducing consumer demand for rhino horn: With TRAFFIC - the international wildlife trade monitoring network organized and operated as a joint programme by and between WWF and IUCN - and through community outreach efforts, we are working to reduce the consumer demand for rhino horn, and thus the black market for rhino poachers.

Examples of current work

  • In the Terai Arc Landscape in India and Nepal, at the base of the Himalayas, various conservation efforts for the greater one-horned rhino have enjoyed success. These include translocating rhinos to new areas, and working with local communities to conserve rhino habitat and promote alternative livelihoods.
     
  • In Assam, India, WWF AREAS and the International Rhino Foundation (IRF) are supporting a project, 'Indian Rhino Vision 2020', aiming to increase the rhino population from around 2000 today to 3000 by 2020, and to ensure that they are distributed over at least seven protected areas. WWF is also working with local stakeholders to secure a habitat corridor between Kaziranga National Park - home to the largest population of greater one-horned rhinos - and Karbi Anglong so that the rhinos have access to higher areas during floods.
     
  • In Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam, WWF and the Vietnamese government are working together to preserve the remaining population of eight Javan rhinos. Thanks to WWF’s efforts, the park is now benefiting from increased management and protection, biological monitoring and research, redrawn park boundaries, and the involvement of the local community in understanding and recognising their unique environmental inheritance.

  • In the Heart of Borneo, straddling Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia, surveys by WWF, Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and Sabah Foundation (SF) found the largest-known Sumatran rhino population in Borneo. The three organizations are now running rhino monitoring units to prevent poaching. WWF is also working with local landholders, agri-businesses, and the government to stop the conversion of more than 20,000km2 of forest to oil palm and timber plantations between Kinabatangan and Sebuku Sembakung. The destruction of this forest would very probably lead to poaching of the remaining Sumatran rhinos in the area.
     
  • In Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, the critically endangered population of 60–80 Sumatran rhinos faces increasing threat from the conversion of forest to cash crops on both the eastern and western sides of the island’s central mountain range. WWF is operating with park officials to collect population data on the rhinos, and with local communities to halt deforestation and preserve and restore natural habitat.
     
  • In  Ujung Kulon National Park, on the island of Java, Indonesia, anti-poaching patrols funded by WWF, IRF, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have ensured that no rhino poaching has occurred in the last five years. WWF and its partners also help the park’s staff monitor the rhinos through camera traps and faecal DNA analysis. Such monitoring indicates that the population is still breeding and producing calves. WWF is also working with local communities to create awareness and generate alternative livelihoods.
          
  • Throughout all rhino habitats, WWF and TRAFFIC monitor the illegal trade in rhino horn, fund anti-poaching patrols, and support intelligence networks in strategic locations to prevent over-exploitation of rhinos for international trade. Work is also ongoing with practitioners of traditional Asian medicine to find and promote alternatives to rhino horn.

 / ©: Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon
Darted and radio-collared greater one-horned rhinoceros, to be translocated from Royal Chitwan National Park to Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon
Darted and radio-collared greater one-horned rhinoceros, to be translocated from Royal Chitwan National Park to Royal Bardia National Park, Nepal.

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