World Rhino Day 2020

September 22nd is an international day dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness for the world’s last 5 remaining species of rhinoceros (Rhinocerotidae): white rhino, black rhino, Indian rhino, Javan rhino, and Sumatran rhino. 

Sadly, animals only get their designated annual Remembrance Day when they are almost extinct!

At the beginning of the 20th century, it is believed that over 500,000 rhinos roamed around Africa and Asia. Today there are an estimated 70,000 rhinos left, of which 27,000 remain in the wild.  Very few rhinos survive outside protected national parks and reserves, due to ongoing and ruthless poaching and habitat loss.  

Mother and calf rhino, Masai Mara, Kenya
Mother and calf, Masai Mara, Kenya

Of the 5 rhino species still remaining, three are critically endangered; black rhino, Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino.

WHITE RHINO (Ceratotherium simum)
  • Current population: 17,212 -18,915
  • Weight: 1800 – 2500 kg
  • Height: 1.5 – 1.8 metres to top of shoulder
  • Habitat: tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs and shrub-lands 

The white rhino is also known as the square-lipped rhino. In the early 1900s, these rhinos were near extinction, with only 50-100 individuals left in the wild. Due to extensive conservation practices, the numbers have now increased. The majority of white rhinos live in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.

Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni)
  • Current population 2
  • Critically Endangered, possibly extinct in the wild: IUCN Red List Classification

Both of them rhinos are females and are protected under 24hr armed guard in a Conservancy in Kenya. Since there are no male species left, once these two are gone, this breed will become extinct.

Black rhino (Diceros bicornis)
  • Size: 900 – 1350 kg
  • Current population is 5,366 – 5,627
  • Height to shoulder: 1.6 metres
  • Life expectancy in the wild: 30-35 years, in captivity 35 – 40 years.
  • Location: Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Malawi.  
  • Habitat is tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs, and shrub-lands.
  • Critically Endangered: IUCN Red List Classification

The black rhino has two horns which grow continuously from the skin at the base of the horn on the face. Black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos and have a smaller hump on their necks. They also have smaller heads, as black rhinos are browsers and eat from higher bushes and trees requiring less muscle strength around their necks than white rhinos. There is no colour difference between the black and white rhino, as they are both dark grey. The other distinguishing characteristic is that the black rhino has a hooked lip, whereas the white rhino has a flat-based lip.

Due to a number of conservation programs, and reintroduction programs in Africa the numbers of black rhino have increased.

Male Rhino, Masai Mara, Kenya
Male rhino, Masai Mara, Kenya
Greater one-horned rhino (Rhinocerous unicornis)
  • Current population 3588
  • Habitat: due to these rhinos being semi-aquatic they prefer tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannahs, shrub-lands, swaps, forests near rivers
  • Weight: 1800 – 2700 kg
  • Height: 1.75 – 2 metres tall, and 3 – 3.8 metres long
  • Location: Nepal and India
  • Life expectancy: 35 – 40 years in the wild, and 40 years in captivity
  • Vulnerable: IUCN Red List Classification

In the 1900s there were less than 200 greater one-horned rhinos remaining. Due to collaborative conservation efforts in both India and Nepal, their numbers have increased significantly.  

Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
  • Current population 72
  • Weight: 900- 2300 kg
  • Height 1.4 – 1.7 metres
  • Lifespan: 34 – 40 years in the wild
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical moist forests
  • Critically Endangered: IUCN Red List Classification

The remaining Javan rhinos live in one national park in Indonesia on the island of Java. They are considered to be the rarest largest mammal on earth. Considered to be solitary animals apart from the mating season and while females are raising calves. Stringent conservation efforts are having a positive impact on the numbers which are slowly increasing.

World Rhino Day 2020
Rhino, Kenya
Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
  • The current population less than 80
  • Weight: 500 – 960 kg
  • Height: 1.5 metres
  • Habitat: dense highland and lowland tropical and sub-tropical forests
  • Critically Endangered: IUCN Red List Classification

The remaining Sumatran rhinos living in the wild are in Sumatra and Borneo. This rhino has been on earth longer than any other living mammal. They are the smallest and hairiest of all rhino species

Female rhino with calf, Kenya
Female rhino with calf, Kenya

Threats:  Humans – harassment and encroachment in their habitats.

Poaching:  for rhino horns and body parts.  Rhino horns are bought and sold on the black market for their presumed therapeutic properties.  

Habitat loss:  due to deforestation, agriculture, fragmented habitats. Shrinking habitats are impacting on the ability of rhinos to live in and breed successfully.


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