International Affairs
International Affairs

Rhino Conservation. Rhino photo credit Brendan Hll, FFI

How the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife Without Borders program is helping rhinos:

Creating an emergency response facility for rhino conservancies in Laikipia District, Kenya.

African rhino monitoring. Credit Karl Stromayer/USFWS
By equipping a rhino capture facility close to rhino populations in Central Kenya with the crates, capture truck, and crane required for emergency rhino operations, we hope to improve response time for veterinarians and capture specialists to reach rhinos in central and northern Kenya when necessary.

Improving rhino crime investigation and prosecution in Zimbabwe.

Black rhino. Credit: Richard Ruggiero, USFWS
This project will convene representatives of the police and the judiciary at a workshop taught by rhino field practitioners and lawyers familiar with wildlife policy in order to improve awareness about the plight of the rhino and to provide the assistance necessary to increase the prosecution rate for wildlife crimes.

Improving effectiveness of Rhino Protection Units in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in Malaysia

Asian rhino. Credit: International Rhino Foundation
This project will enable units to patrol for at least 15 days per month in areas of highest risk to rhinos, ensuring that no traps are placed or remain long enough to threaten rhinos within the sanctuary, apprehending suspected poachers and forging meaningful links with senior managers of plantations.

Rhinos are magnificent creatures: big, powerful, and charismatic. Unfortunately, these same qualities make them popular targets; rhino body parts are in high demand on the global black market. Rhino horns are used in Asian medicines, which are sold to consumers who believe these animal products convey strength, health and virility. Rhino horns are also carved for dagger handles as a coveted status symbol in the Middle East. The illegal trade in animal parts is a profitable business and the demand for these products creates an ongoing temptation for poachers.

All five species of rhino surviving in the wild today are endangered under the Endangered Species Act and listed from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Rhinos are also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), of which the United States is a member.

Fortunately, poaching is decreasing in certain areas. In Chitwan, Nepal rhino poaching has dropped to zero for the past year, and the population of rhinos has risen in Assam, India over the past decade. To stay updated on important news, follow the Service's International Affairs program on Facebook.

News & Publications:

- Stamp Out Extinction with the Save Vanishing Species Stamp!

- Wildlife Without Borders-Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund

- Fact Sheet on Rhino and Tiger Conservation (PDF)

FAQs and Additional Resources:

- USFWS Wildlife Without Borders rhino conservation funding and project summaries

- Rhino population history and current status

- International Rhino Foundation website

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wildlife Without Borders Funding for Rhinoceros Conservation:

In 2011, the Wildlife Without Borders Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund supported 21 projects to conserve rhinoceros and their habitats, totaling $1,053,154 in grant funding. This support leveraged an additional $2,099,675 in matching funds.

In Africa, 16 projects will conserve black and white rhinoceros in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. An additional five conservation projects will support all three Asian species, working in India, Indonesia, and Nepal.

Click here to download a detailed list of 2011 project summaries from the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund (PDF).

Rhinoceros Population History and Current Status:

Wild rhinos can still be found in parts of Asia and Africa, but they live in small fragmented populations which may not be viable (due to lack of breeding opportunities and risk of random events or disease). Sumatran rhinos have decreased by 50 percent in the past 18 years leaving fewer than 200 surviving, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Before 1900, black rhinos occurred throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, but between 1970 and 1992, rhino populations declined 96%. Black rhinos went extinct in many range states, and by 1992, only 2,300 individuals survived in seven countries.

But while rhinos continue to be killed for their horns, increased security and greater anti-poaching efforts have led to increases in some populations over the past decade. Recovery of Africa’s white rhino demonstrates the benefits of strong law enforcement and conservation management. Decimated by hunting, white rhinos nearly became extinct with only about 100 surviving in the wild. Now, with good protection and successful management, the subspecies has increased to more than 20,000 and is the most abundant of all rhinos.

The following are current population estimates for the five species of rhinoceros, according to the International Rhino Foundation and IUCN Rhino Specialist Groups:

            White rhinoceros: 20,150
            Black rhinoceros: 4,240
            Sumatran rhinoceros: 200
            Javan rhinoceros: 27-44
            Indian rhinoceros: 2,800-2,850


Last updated: February 23, 2012
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