Open Spaces: A Crash Course in Rhinos & Rhino Conservation

A Crash Course in Rhinos & Rhino Conservation

Due to their power, a herd of rhinos is referred to as a “crash”.  Rhinos are magnificent creatures: big, primordial and charismatic.

Unfortunately, these qualities also make them popular targets.  Rhino body parts, like horns, are in high demand on the global black market.  Illegal trade in animal parts is a profitable business, and the demand for these products creates an ongoing temptation for poachers.

White Rhino Nakuru NP, Kenya Credit: Karl Stromayer/USFWS

There are five species of rhino in the wild today: the white rhino, the black rhino, the Sumatran rhino, the Javan rhino, and the Indian rhino.  Four of those five species (Black, Sumatran, Javan, and Indian) are listed as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. While the northern white rhino is listed as Endangered under the ESA, the southern white rhino is not listed.  All 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.

Here are 5 things you may not have known about rhinos and rhino conservation:

  • Before 1900, there were hundreds of thousands of black rhinos in sub-Saharan Africa. Today, there are estimated to be just over 4,200.
  • Black rhino populations declined a staggering 96% between 1970 and 1992.
  • There are only 200 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild.  The small population makes growing the population a challenge due to limited opportunities for breeding and vulnerabilities to disease.
  • White rhinos took a huge hit during this period.  At one point, there were only 100 surviving in the wild.  Today, with stronger law enforcement, a decline in poaching, and strategic conservation management, the International Rhino Foundation estimates the population at 20,000.  Although increased poaching in 2011 has raised concerns, especially in South Africa where the majority of white rhinos reside.
  • Our Wildlife Without Borders Rhinoceros and Conservation Fund supported 21 rhino conservation projects in 2011.  The fund included over $1 million in grant funding and over $2 million in matching funds.

You can help support these and other conservation efforts by ordering the Save the Vanishing Species semipostal stamp?  Proceeds from stamp sales will support efforts targeted at endangered species worldwide.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012