One of the most recognizable animals to many of us is the rhinoceros. In all of our picture books about animals as children, there was always a rhinoceros there to be seen. The rhinoceros is one of the most famous of Africa’s large animals, as a member of the Big Five. The great rhino is known for its large horn, but what else can we really recall about it? They are both fascinating in looks and in their behavior. However, unfortunately, rhino populations are plummeting around the world. Let’s take a look at how many rhinos are left in the world and what’s being done to help them!
How Many Rhinos Are Left In The World?
Rhinos and elephants are the last of the megafauna that roamed the earth for a long time before humans. Africa and Asia were the two continents where they were found in abundance. Rhinos were even depicted in cave paintings. In the early 20th century, there were about 500,000 rhinos in Asia and Africa, according to the World Wildlife Fund. However, by 1970, rhino numbers dropped to 70,000, and today, around 27,000 rhinos remain in the wild.
There are five different species of rhinos. Three of the species are classified as critically endangered. Let’s take a look at the rhino populations by species to get a better idea of how many rhinos of each species are left.
Rhino Populations by Species
There are five different species of rhinoceros in the world, as we mentioned previously. Among the five species, two are African and three are Asian. The following is a snapshot of the state of all five rhino species in 2022.
A large portion of the rhino population is composed of white rhinos. There are two subspecies of white rhinos found in Africa: the northern white rhino and the southern white rhino. In the wild, there are estimated to be between 17,000 and 19,000 white rhinos. Unfortunately, this number is declining. Within the last decade, the wild population is thought to have decreased by around 12%. According to the IUCN Red List, they are near threatened.
Among rhino species, the black rhino is the second largest. It is estimated that their population ranges from 5,366 to 5,630. Although the number sounds low, their population is actually growing. The International Rhino Foundation estimates that the species’ population has increased by 16 – 17% over the past decade. According to the IUCN Conservation Red List, it remains Critically Endangered. However, this population boost is evidence that protection efforts are working.
The Greater One-Horned Rhino
Greater one-horned rhinos, also known as “Indian rhinos,” are classified as Vulnerable. The current population is about 3,700, and it is growing, thankfully. A century or so ago, this species numbered just 100 individuals. So the conservation efforts have been going incredibly well. Several efforts have been made over the years by the governments of India and Nepal to combat rhino poaching and expand protected areas for these animals.
The Sumatran Rhino
There are not many large mammals left on earth that are more endangered than the Sumatran rhinoceros. A critically endangered status has been assigned to it. Currently, there are fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, and the population is declining rapidly. The Sumatran rhino lives mainly on the Indonesian islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Due to habitat loss, it’s virtually gone everywhere except for Sumatra and Borneo, where it survives in small numbers.
The Javan Rhino
In the same way as the Sumatran rhino, the Javan rhino is classified as Critically Endangered. It is due to the fact that only 75 of them live in the wild today. Despite this, the population has remained stable. In 1965, fewer than 20 Javan rhinos remained. A successful conservation program has resulted in an increase and stability in the number of animals. Java, an Indonesian island, is home to the entire population of the Javan rhinoceros.
What Is Causing Rhino Populations To Plummet?
Rhino populations are declining due to several factors. The loss of habitat is one of the most significant contributors. A growing human population in Asia and Africa inevitably encroaches upon rhino habitats. The land is being cleared for human settlement, agricultural production, and logging on a continuous basis. For example, the Javan Rhino no longer exists outside Ujung Kulon National Park, where it was once found across Southeast Asia. The loss of habitat negatively impacts rhino species in many other ways as well.
The poaching of rhinos is another grave issue rhinos face, along with habitat loss. The poaching of rhinos for their horns is still going on, despite rhino horns being illegal since 1993. On the black market, rhino horns are extremely profitable, and there are a lot of people who want them. The kind of profits at stake makes illegal groups willing to invest time and money in illegally poaching rhinos.
What Is Being Done To Prevent Rhino Species From Going Extinct?
Rhino populations are being saved from extinction by a number of initiatives. Rhino conservation areas are being provided as a measure to protect rhinos. During a rescue, wild rhinos are taken humanely to a sanctuary for protection. They are exactly like the rhino’s natural habitats. They have different types of conservation grounds which include deserts, tropical grasslands, and woodlands. Keeping rhinos protected from poachers and away from habitat destruction prolongs the life of rhinos, preventing their extinction.
There are also efforts being made to improve the laws being passed by governments where rhinos reside. International and local laws are being improved in Africa and other regions of the world to stop rhino horn trade and sale. Research done on rhino poaching suggested that regulated trade of live rhinos could reduce poaching. In contrast, other groups, such as The World Wildlife Fund, oppose legalizing the horn trade because it will increase demand.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/EcoPic
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