The State of the Rhino: World Rhino Day

Every year, the International Rhino Federation releases a report on the state of the Rhino species to coincide with World Rhino Day, 22nd September, which enables cause-related organisations to raise awareness of the plight of the rhino and highlight its issues.

World Rhino Day was first announced by WWF-South Africa in 2010, growing in 2011 into an international success, encompassing both African and Asian Rhino species, and uniting concerned organisations, businesses and individuals from all around the world.

Southern White Rhino

Southern White Rhino

The State of the Rhino 2018

Highlights from this year’s report include:

  • For five years, African rhinos have been poached at a rate of three per day.

  • Overall, two-thirds of the world’s five rhino species could be lost in our lifetime.

  • The Sumatran rhino is the most in peril. It may well be the most endangered large mammal on Earth with population numbers less than 80, a decline more than 70% in the past 20 years.

  • In 2018, the death of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, garnered huge public attention and empathy.

  • Black Rhino are suffering from the poaching epidemic but population numbers are at around 5000, up from 2300 in the last 25 years.

  • Despite these statistics, Rhino conservation has seen some great success. Ten years ago, roughly 20,800 rhinos roamed Earth. Today, rhino numbers hover around 29,500 – a 41 percent increase in a decade.

The Rhino Species

There are 5 species of Rhino, full name Rhinoceros, in the odd-toed ungulate family Rhinocerotidae.

Two species are native to Africa: the Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum).

Three species are native to Southern Asia: the Great One Horned Rhino, also known as Indian Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), native to India and Nepal, the Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) found in Java Island, Indonesia and Vietnam, and the Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) also known as the Hairy Rhino, native in Sumatra Island Indonesia, Southern China, Bhutan, Cambodia and Borneo.

The White Rhino

The Northern White Rhino

The northern white rhino is a subspecies of white rhino, which used to range over parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Years of widespread poaching and civil war in their home range devastated the populations. By the time expert trackers determined that they were extinct in the wild in 2009, only a handful of zoo animals remained, none capable of breeding. In 2018, the death of Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, a member of a functionally-extinct subspecies of White Rhino, left only two females: his daughter and his granddaughter.

To try to preserve the species, genetic material was collected from Sudan before he was euthanised for yet-unproven costly and complicated procedures using advanced reproductive technologies including stem cell technology, artificial insemination and IVF with eggs from southern white rhino females in European zoos, so that his death will not signal the end of the species.

The northern white rhino females cannot mate with a black rhino, but could mate with a southern white rhino, which are not endangered though a different subspecies from genetically. The offspring would not be 100% northern white rhino, but experts believe it would be better than nothing. Ol Pejeta Conservancy is together with Dvůr Králové Zoo trying to raise USD 9 million towards this with a GoFundMe campaign called ‘Make a Rhino’.

The Southern White Rhino

For Southern White Rhino, births barely outstrip deaths, due to being the poaching target for gangs in Africa. That said, the Government of South Africa and dedicated conservationists teamed up to bring the southern white rhino back from fewer than 100 individuals in the early 1900s to roughly 20,000 today.

The Black Rhino

By 1993, less than 2,300 rhinos remained from more than 65,000 in the 1970s. Now, black rhino numbers hover around 5,000 animals, but, like white rhinos, are being particularly hard-hit by a poaching epidemic.

The Greater One-Horned or Indian Rhino

Thanks to strict protection by government authorities in India and Nepal (such as protection by military conscripts), has rebounded from fewer than 200 individuals to more than 3,550 today.

The Sumatran Rhino

In existence longer than any other living mammal and considered “primitive”, the Sumatran Rhino is also known as the Hairy Rhino as it is the hairiest of all species especially on the ears and tail, and is by far the smallest species of rhino.

Due to hunting for its horn and forest habitat loss (much due to palm oil deforestation), in Asia, fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain, a population decline of more than 70% in the past 20 years. Sumatran rhinos were declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015. Three small, isolated populations exist on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, plus it is believed that fewer than 10 of the Bornean subspecies of rhino survive in small and highly fragmented populations in eastern and central Sabah, with similarly low numbers in Kalimantan, Indonesia. With such low numbers, the threats to the species now include the low probability of fertile females and males meeting in the wild, inbreeding and aging without reproducing.

Remaining populations are heavily guarded by anti-poaching units, and plans are underway to capture rhinos and bring them into large, semi-natural breeding facilities in an attempt to increase population numbers.

Javan rhinos

There are no more than 67 animals, found only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, where they are heavily protected, and under serious threat from potential eruptions of close-by Krakatoa, the volcano that devastated the region in 1883, and “Anak Krakatau,” or Son of Krakatoa, also active a short way away.

In Summary

Despite some successes, Rhinos are amongst the most endangered species on the world, requiring expensive round-the-clock guarding from the ever-present threat of poaching.

Work is also being done to stem demand for rhino horn and thus poaching, China and Vietnam being the top two consumer countries, and to intensify international pressure on country governments to enforce wildlife crime laws.

Rhino conservation initiatives and activities help create the funds to raise awareness for the plight, support the species guarded protection and invest in innovative scientific means of species conservation, to ensure these species don’t go extinct.

As The Last Northern White Rhino, the demise of Sudan, “the most prolific rhino ambassador in history”, is hoped to be seen as a seminal moment for conservation worldwide, to ensure this does not happen to any other Rhino species.


Thanks to The International Rhino Federation for the information, please support their Save The Rhino campaigns and join #TeamRhino this World Rhino Day:

See for yourself: You may see Rhino in the wild with Earth Changers in Kenya.