State of the Rhino
All five rhino species are threatened with extinction. Populations of two species – greater one-horned and white – were reduced to fewer than 100 animals in the early 20th Century, but because of concerted efforts by governments and dedicated conservationists, have rebounded into the thousands or tens of thousands since that time. Africa’s black rhino numbered around 65,000 in 1973, and were reduced to only a few thousand animals by the early 1990s, but strategic interventions have helped to double its population since then. We have no reliable historical population estimates for the Sumatran and Javan rhinos, but each is now believed to number one hundred individuals or less, and both are threatened with imminent extinction. Despite the current poaching crisis, overall rhino numbers continue to slowly increase. However, the status of each species, as seen below, is significantly different.
Greater One-Horned Rhino
More than 3,500 individuals in the wild – Population slowly increasing
Thanks to ongoing protection, the greater one-horned rhino population now numbers more than 3,345 animals in India and Nepal. More than 2,625 rhinos are found in Kaziranga, Manas and Orang National Parks, and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in India’s state of Assam. More than 280 individuals also live in protected areas in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and more than 640 greater one-horned rhinos remain in Nepal. Poaching is still a problem in Assam, where 20 animals were killed in 2015, a decrease from 30 animals poached in 2014. In Nepal, thanks to army protection, no animals have been poached since 2014 - a tremendous achievement!
Between 5,042 - 5,455 individuals in the wild – Population slowly increasing
Black rhinos face continued risk from the African poaching crisis, particularly in South Africa. But thanks to intensive anti-poaching efforts, black rhino numbers remain relatively stable or are slowly increasing as reproduction slightly offsets both natural mortality and poaching losses. Presently, the species occurs in nine countries: the Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Botswana. The highest priorities for safeguarding this species are to bolster anti-poaching activities and to maintain intensive monitoring and active management of wild populations.
Between 19,682 - 21,077 individuals in the wild – Population stable or slowly decreasing due to poaching
In the face of the poaching crisis, white rhino populations still are thought to have remained relatively stable. White rhinos occur in eight countries - South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Uganda and Kenya. South Africa holds more than 90% of world population. In 2015, more than 1,175 rhinos were slaughtered in South Africa alone; the majority were white rhinos. The highest priority for ensuring this species’ survival is to increase protection efforts, especially for the largest populations, and put international pressure on range country governments to enforce their wildlife crime laws.
60 - 63 individuals in the wild – Population stable
Javan rhinos survive only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park where updated population estimates are based on video camera trap data that have been verified by park experts and by the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group. The highest conservation priorities for saving the Javan rhino from extinction include continuing protection, expanding rhino habitat within the Javan Rhino Study and Conservation Area in the eastern portion of Ujung Kulon, managing habitat within the core portion of the park, and identifying a suitable translocation site for establishing a second population.
Probably no more than 100 individuals in the wild - Population decreasing
As few as 100 Sumatran rhinos survive as fragmented populations in Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan, Gunung Leuser and Way Kambas National Parks, and a small population has recently been found in central Kalimantan. The Sumatran rhino was recently declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia and Vietnam. Small population effects, such as reduced reproduction, human encroachment into rhino habitat and the ever-present danger of poaching remain the most serious threats. The most critical actions are protecting and consolidating existing populations, increasing public awareness, and expanding the managed breeding program.