Rhino: Species Spotlight

Rhino: Species Spotlight will look at the different sub-species of this iconic creature and look into the threats they face and how we can all learn more, in order to do more.

In the past rhinos would roam Asia and Africa in their millions but due to hunting and habitat loss their numbers are estimated to be around 30,000 surviving in the wild today.

Over the past 20 years conservation has done wonders to try and increase the number of the species living in the wild, however due to the resurgence of poaching from about 2008, all their hard work is being threatened again. Thankfully, Rhinos have not yet reached their “tipping point” which is where the number of animals poached outweighs the number of births. However, this event is scarily close.



There are 5 different species of rhino:

White Rhino

Black Rhino

Greater One-Horned Rhino

Sumatran Rhino

Javan Rhino

This post was originally written in 2017 for Small World, Big Cause. It has been edited and refreshed for The Curious Environmentalist. 

Species Spotlight: Rhino

Taken from the ‘Save The Rhino’ website, we can see the published figures for populations in the wild and track their progress:

Rhino population figures are compiled and published by the African Rhino Specialist Group, whose figures are reported to CITES, the international treaty regulating the trade in wildlife parts, and which was responsible for banning the international rhino horn trade in 1977.

The figures below are reported with 90% confidence levels for the end of 2015, based on rhino monitoring surveys and other quantitative data collected by conservationists.

Rhino species Population
White  Between 19,666 and 21,085
Black  Between 5,040 and 5,458
Greater one-horned  3,500+
Sumatran  c. 100
Javan  61-63


Let’s find out more about the different species that are still alive today.

White Rhino:

Height: approx. 1.5m – 1.8m tall


Weight: approx.. 1,800kg – 3,000kg

 The Southern White Rhino, Cerathotherium simum simum, has been saved from the brink of extinction with its numbers sitting at approx.. 20,000 individuals in the wild. However, the Northern White Rhino, Ceratotherium simum cottoni, now only has 3 individuals left in the entire world. Which unfortunately makes the species “functionally extinct” which means when the population is not large enough to sustain the species or to fulfil the species role within the ecosystem.

All is not lost, however, scientists and conservationist have been working to try and save the species through harvesting sperm and eggs from the remaining individuals to try and revive the species through placing embryos in their close relatives The Southern White Rhino.

The white rhino is considered near threatened. It can be found South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Uganda.

 Black Rhino:

Height: approx.. 1.6m


Weight: approx. 900kg – 1,350kg

The black rhino, Diceros Bicornis, are mostly solitary when in the wild, they are considered to be quite shy and they are most likely to be seen foraging and drink at night rather than in the heat of the sun.

This species of rhino is considered critically endangered, with only between 5,000 – 6,000 individuals left.

This species can be found in: Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Malawi.

Greater One-Horned Rhino:

Height: approx.. 1.75m – 2m

Weight: approx.. 1,800kg – 2,500kg

The Greater One-Horned Rhino, Rhinocerous unicornis, are known for being good swimmers and can even dive to feed underwater. They are distinctive in appearance due to their “armour-plated” skin and are usually solitary in the wild.

Their current conservation status is vulnerable, with a population of about 3,500. They can be found in India and Nepal.

Sumatran Rhino:

Height: approx. 1m -1.5m

Weight: approx. 500kg – 960kg

The Sumatran Rhino, Dicerohinus sumatrensis, has roamed the earth longer than any other mammal living today.

They are known as “The Hairy Rhino” and spend most of their days sitting in ponds or mud wallows to keep themselves cool.

They can be found in the wild in Indonesia and Malaysia but they are critically endangered with a population of only about 100 individuals left. They can be identified by their 2 horns and are also usually solitary in the wild.

Javan Rhino:

Height: approx. 1.4m – 1.7m

Weight: approx. 900kg – 2,300kg

The Javan Rhino, Rhinoceros sondaicus, is widely regarded as being the rarest large mammal on the planet.  It is considered to be critically endangered with only 61 – 63 individuals left of the species.

It is only found in Java, Indonesia. Although until 2011 it could also be found in Vietnam.

Although numbers are low for this species of rhino, the numbers are on the up – in 1967 there were a maximum of 30 individuals, which rose to between 50 – 60 in 1980 and again to 61 – 63 in 2015. It is hoped that over the next 150 years, if the species is protected correctly, that numbers could increase to approx.. 2,000 – 2,500 individuals.

Due of the rapid decline of this species, not much is known about the Javan Rhino. It is not a confrontational animal as it more likely to run away from an enemy rather than attack them.

Rhinos are under threat due to their small population sizes, habitat loss, political conflicts and poaching.

Poaching occurs due to the high value of a rhino’s horn, this is due to its uses in Traditional Chinese Medicine and also its use as a status symbol with communities.

It is still possible to save the rhinos that we have today from extinction, if people are still willing to protects these creatures from harm. Conservation is never easy and is an ongoing battle to save our natural world. The time is now to come together to protect the animals that are on the brink of extinction and to stop them going the same way as too many species have done in the past.

A big shout out the Save The Rhino website which gave me the information to do this animal of the month post. Do check it out, there is loads more information on there if you want to find out more, plus you can also donate to their cause too!




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