White Rhino

(Ceratotherium simum)
IUCN RED LIST: Near Threatened

The white rhino is the least endangered of the living rhino species with a population of around 18,000 individuals in range countries.

The Government of South Africa and dedicated conservationists teamed up to bring the southern white rhino back from possibly fewer than 50 individuals in the early 1900s to roughly 18,000 today – though that population has declined over the past 3 years because of poaching.

Unfortunately, white rhinos are seeing higher poaching levels than black rhinos, particularly in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, largely because they generally live in more open habitats where they are easier to target. Sadly, from 2012 to 2017, the poaching scourge led to a 15% decrease in white rhino numbers.

The white rhino, along with the roughly equal-sized Greater one-horned rhino, is the largest species of land mammal after the elephant. It has two distinct subspecies, but only populations of the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) remain viable. The northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is extinct in the wild due to poaching and only two females remain in captivity.

  • The white rhino lives in Africa, in long and short-grass savannahs.
  • Just five countries hold 99% of Africa's white rhinos - the vast majority of those in South Africa.
  • White rhinos are grazers. Its wide, square upper lip is adapted for feeding on grasses.
  • White rhinos can live to be 50 years of age. Gestation lasts approximately 16 months, and mothers give birth to one calf every 2-3 years.
  • White rhinos are semi-social and territorial. Females and subadults generally are social, but bulls are typically solitary.
Current White Rhino Numbers and Distribution

There are currently approximately 18,000 white rhinos.

CITES: Appendix I

Common Names

White rhinoceros is taken from the Afrikaans word describing its mouth: “wyd”, meaning "wide". Early English settlers misinterpreted the "wyd" for "white".

It is also sometimes called the square-lipped rhinoceros.

Scientific Name and Origin

Ceratotherium simum

Ceratotherium from the Greek "cerato", meaning "horn" and "thorium", meaning "wild beast" and "simum" from the Greek simus, meaning "flat nosed."

Physical Characteristics


  • Weight: 4,000-6,000 lbs (1,800 - 2,700 kg)
  • Height: 5 – 6 feet (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall at shoulder
  • Length: 10-16 feet (3 - 5 m) length of head and body


White rhinos have two horns. The larger front horn measures 37 - 79 inches (94 - 201 cm). The rear horn measures up to 22 inches (55 cm) long.

Other Features

Relatively broad snout with a square lip.