Rhinos have existed for over
50 million years. In the past, at one time there were 30 species of rhinos,
including the largest land mammal that ever lived. Rhinos were also common
in North America.
Rhinos belong to the same group of animals as horses; both are
"odd-toed ungulates", or Perissodactyla.
Rhinos have three toes,
which leave distinctive tracks. They have thick skin which forms inflexible
plates over the shoulders, haunches, sides, forehead and cheeks. Rhinos are
surprisingly agile, despite their bulky appearance. They have poor eyesight,
but exceptional hearing and an acute sense of smell.
only five species of rhino survive. These five species are further divided
into 11 identified subspecies. All rhinos are under threat of, and all but
one species is on the verge of, extinction. Without drastic action, some
rhinos could be extinct in the wild within the next 10-20 years. Only
about 25,000 of these marvelous creatures survive in the wild with another
1,250 in captivity. Of these rhinos, more than two thirds are white
rhinos. There are only around 7,300 of the other four species
current population estimates are:
One-horned rhino: 2,800-2,850
The Western Black Rhino of
Africa was declared officially extinct November 10,2011 by The
International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The Northern White Rhino of
central Africa is now "possibly extinct" in the wild and the
Javan Rhino "probably extinct" in Vietnam, after poachers killed
the last animal there in 2010.
The black rhino has suffered the most spectacular rate of decline of all
rhino species in the last 10 to 15 years with populations reduced 85%.
The rhino is being exterminated by poachers who sell the horn for medicinal
or ornamental purposes in Asia and the Middle East. In Yemen rhino horn is carved into traditional dagger handles, which is
worn by men as a sign of wealth. Without drastic action, four species of rhino could be extinct in the
wild within the next 10 years.
Of these rhinos, over
half are of a single species - the white rhino.
Poachers in Africa have
been known to tap power lines and electrocute rhinos just so they can saw
off the animals' horns. That's just one more instance of the immeasurable
cruelty humans are capable of showing animals
"War in Africa
often puts a lot of hungry troops in areas where there isn't much food, in
which case if they eat wild flesh they are going to really devastate the
area," Jane Goodall, a leading naturalist and author renowned for her
studies on wild chimpanzees. Africa's wars have displaced millions of
people, creating waves of malnourished refugees who often have little choice
but to kill wild animals for food. Valuable habitat has been destroyed by
battles while in some countries elephants and rhinos have been
ruthlessly hunted for their ivory and horns to fund both government and
rebel war efforts
Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros
No more than 44 individuals
– believed to be stable Rarest of all rhinos, the Javan rhino survives
only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. Sadly, this year, we
believe that the last Javan rhino was poached in Vietnam’s Cat Loc
Reserve. In Ujung Kulon, best survey estimates, backed up with camera-trap
data, suggest that no more than 44 animals remain in the park. Of these, we
suspect that there are only four or five females with breeding potential.
The highest priority actions for Javan rhinos are continued protection of
the existing population and collaborative efforts to expand useable habitat
in Ujung Kulon as a precursor to establishing a second, ‘insurance’
population elsewhere in Indonesia.
Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus
Fewer than 200 individuals
– decreasing Only about 200 Sumatran rhinos survive in fragmented
populations on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. In Sumatra, Indonesia,
between 130 and 175 rhinos are scattered among three populations in Bukit
Barisan Selatan, Way Kambas, and Gunung Leuser National Parks. In Sabah,
Borneo, Malaysia, approximately 20 Sumatran rhinos remain in fragmented
populations; no evidence of rhinos has been seen in peninsular Malaysia for
several years. The primary threats facing this species are human
encroachment into the rhinos’ habitats and poaching. The future of
Sumatran rhinos depends on continued protection by highly trained
anti-poaching teams, intensive management within protected areas, and
creating incentives for local communities to decrease encroachment.
Greater One-horned Rhino
At least 2,850 individuals
– increasing The greater one-horned rhino population now numbers around
2,850 and is slowly growing. In 2010, poaching pressure on the species in
India and Nepal slightly decreased. Greater one-horned rhino numbers are
increasing mostly because of the growing population in Kaziranga National
Park, which now numbers more than 2,000 animals. To continue this growth,
however, protection measures must endure and efforts to spread the
population out among different protected areas over the next few years must
Black Rhino (Diceros
At least 4,860 individuals
– slowly increasing Black rhino populations were brutally hit by
well-organized and highly-armed gangs of poachers in 2010, particularly in
South Africa. In Zimbabwe, where we moved animals to safer areas, poaching
decreased significantly this year. Black rhino strongholds include South
Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe, in descending order. Highest priorities
include continuing to protect existing populations from organized criminal
poaching gangs and ensuring effective prosecution of wildlife crime.
Rhino (Ceratotherum simum)
least 20,150 individuals - increasing White rhino populations continue to grow
despite the heaviest poaching pressure faced by the species in 16 years. South
Africa alone lost 333 rhinos to poaching syndicates this year. More than 40
percent of these were lost in Kruger National Park, which borders Mozambique.
Private sector game ranches are also under siege. Despite poaching pressure, the
southern white rhino is still increasing and is considered ‘Near Threatened’
by the IUCN.
group of rhinos is called a “crash”.
rhinos aren’t white. (And black
rhinos aren’t black.) The white rhino’s name is taken from the
Afrikaans word describing its mouth: “weit”, meaning
"wide". Early English settlers in South Africa
misinterpreted the "weit" for "white".
Rhinos are fast! They can run up
to 30 – 40 miles per hour, which may not sound like much, but if one
is running straight towards you it feels like a NASCAR race car is
coming your way.
Rhino pregnancies last 15 – 16
A rhino’s skin is much softer
than it looks, and is actually quite sensitive to sunburns and insect
bites. (That’s why rhinos like rolling in the mud so much – it
helps to protect them from the sunburns and insects.)
Contrary to the common myth,
there is no evidence that rhinos stamp out forest fires!
rhino is the largest rhino (and the largest land mammal after the
elephant) – they can weigh up to 6,000 pounds. The Sumatran rhino is
the smallest rhino, weighing in at a mere 1,300 – 2,000 pounds.
Rhinos have poor eyesight, but
very well-developed senses of smell and hearing. (And they will charge
at you when startled – the best way to escape is by climbing a tree,
if one is handy!)
African rhinos have a symbiotic
relationship with oxpeckers, also called “tick birds”. In Swahili,
the oxpecker is called “askari wa kifaru”, which means “the
rhino’s guard”. The oxpecker eats ticks and other insects it finds
on the rhino, and creates a commotion when it senses danger.
Most rhinos use piles of dung to
leave “messages” for other rhinos - nuances in the smell of dung
can tell a rhino a lot about others in the area. Each rhino’s smell
identifies its owner as unique - the smell is different for young vs.
adult animals, for males vs. females, and females in estrus vs.
non-reproductive females. Combined with urine left along trails, dung
piles create invisible “borders” around a rhino’s territory.
(Learn more about rhino dung here!)
Rhinos have existed on earth for
more than 50 million years, and once roamed throughout North America
and Europe (as well as Asia and Africa).
Throughout their history, rhinos
have been a very diverse group. The extinct rhino Paraceratherium was
the largest land mammal that ever lived, and resembled a big, muscular
giraffe. Telecoeras was a single-horned, hippo-like grazer common in
The book, The Wonderful Wizard of
Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and illustrated by W.W. Denslow, differs
a lot from the movie classic, and actually has a reference to rhinos.
Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion each get to meet the
Wizard individually and he appears differently to each one of them. To
Dorothy he appears as a huge head, to the Scarecrow as a beautiful
woman, to the Lion as a great ball of fire, and to the Tin Man as a
terrible beast. The beast is described as such, "It was nearly as
big as an elephant, and the green throne seemed hardly strong enough
to hold its weight. The Beast had a head like that of a rhinoceros,
only there were five eyes in its face. There were five long arms
growing out of its body and it also had five long, slim legs. Thick
woolly hair covered every part of it, and a more dreadful-looking
monster could not be imagined." Somehow, this never made it to
the film version.
of the five surviving rhino species (black, Javan and Sumatran) are
Critically Endangered, which means there is at least a 50% chance that
these species will become extinct within three generations (for
rhinos, this means about 30-60 years).
woolly rhino, whose entire body was covered in a thick, shaggy
coat, was hunted by early humans and is depicted in cave paintings
dating back more than 30,000 years ago. The Sumatran rhino is the
closest living relative of the extinct Woolly Rhino. (And they’ve
got the hair to prove it!)
rhino has a prehensile lip which allows it to feed on trees and
shrubs. (The other African species, the white rhino, has a long, flat
lip for grazing on grasses.)
rhino is the rarest land mammal in the world. Less than 50
individuals survive in only two locations (Cat Tien National Park in
Vietnam and Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia.)
Not all rhinos are solitary –
both black and white rhinos commonly live in extended family groups
(particularly females and calves).
Rhino horn is not used as an
aphrodisiac in traditional Asian medicine. It is actually used to
reduce pain and fever, although there is no scientific evidence to
support this usage, and of course, it is illegal.
black and white rhinos all have two horns; Javan and greater
one-horned rhinos have one horn. (And some female Javan rhinos don’t
appear to have a horn at all.)
The most famous piece of rhino
artwork is Albrecht Durer’s woodcut, “The Rhinoceros”, printed
in 1515. It (not entirely accurately) depicts a greater one-horned
rhino sent as a gift from the King of Portugal to Pope Leo X, and has
been reprinted countless times over the past 500 years.
The word rhinoceros comes from
the Greek rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
Depending on the species, rhinos
can live to be 35 – 50 years old.
Rhino horns are made of keratin,
the same material that makes up your hair and fingernails.
The closest living rhino
“relatives” are tapirs, horses and zebras.
To Find Out More
about Endangered Species Visit The Organizations Below
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