Saving rhinos

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum); Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya. / ©: Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum); Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya.
© Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon
Long ago rhinos were widespread across Africa's savannas and Asia's tropical forests. But today very few rhinos survive outside national parks and reserves.


Greater-one horned rhino; black rhino; Sumatran rhino; white rhino; Javan rhino

Two species of rhino in Asia - Javan and Sumatran - are critically endangered. A subspecies of the Javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam in 2011.

A small population of the Javan rhino still clings for survival on the Indonesian island of Java. Successful conservation efforts have helped the third Asian species, the greater one-horned (or Indian) rhino, to increase in number. Their status was changed from Endangered to Vulnerable, but the species is still poached for its horn.

In Africa, southern white rhinos, on the brink of extinction in 1900, now thrive in protected sanctuaries and are classified as Near Threatened.
But the northern white rhino subspecies is believed to only exist in a private conservancy in Kenya after the translocation of four individuals there from captivity.

Black rhinos have doubled in number over the past two decades from their low point of 2,410 individuals, but total numbers are still a fraction of the estimated several hundred thousand that existed in the early part of the 20th century.

Threats to rhinos

Demand for rhino horn
Although international trade in rhino horn has been banned under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora) since 1977, demand remains high - fuelling rhino poaching in both Africa and Asia.

Rhino horn is also used in Traditional Asian Medicine to treat a variety of ailments. There has been a recent surge in demand for rhino horn in Vietnam, where it is being touted as a hangover cure and treatment for terminal illnesses.

Habitat loss
Habitat loss also threatens rhinos, especially in the rainforests and floodplains of Asia, as human populations rise and native vegetation is degraded or destroyed.

Important core conservation areas are increasingly isolated by logging, agricultural expansion, human settlements, road projects, and dam construction.

What WWF is doing for rhinos

WWF has been working to conserve rhinos for over 40 years.

We work with governments, local communities and other NGOs to improve the conservation and management of rhinos by restoring and connecting suitable areas of habitat, improving biological monitoring, sharing expertise, and building the skills and capacity of people working with rhinos.

Our work also involves implementing proactive anti-poaching to stop illegal trade.

We also work to identify suitable habitats that are safe from poaching, into which rhino populations can expand.

ILLEGAL WILDLIFE TRADE

Mutilated rhinos / ©: Brent Stirton / Reportage by Getty Images for WWF-UK
Gangs of poachers carry out barbaric attacks on rhinos.

Typically, the horn is hacked from the rhino’s face with a chainsaw. The horn’s then airlifted away and sold by global criminal networks.

Within 48 hours its horn could be on sale in an Asian marketplace. Meanwhile, it may take a rhino the same length of time to bleed to death.

Learn more about Illegal Wildlife Trade.
Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) head portrait, Swaziland, critically endangered species / ©: naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon
Black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) head portrait, Swaziland, critically endangered species
© naturepl.com / Andy Rouse / WWF-Canon