Image courtesy of Steve Rossi

Rhinos are in danger of extinction

This table is meant to give you an idea of the rate of poaching activity in various countries.  South Africa is home to the largest population of rhino and has the highest rates of poaching.  The table is not representative of all poaching activity and does not mean poaching is limited to only these countries. These figures show what is found and reported and may not account for all poached animals.

India Kenya Namibia South Africa
2012 26 30 668
2013 41 59 1004
2014 35 35 25 1215
2015 30 11 125 1175
2016 7 10 37 1054
2017 13 18 1028

 

 

Source: Poaching Facts and the International Rhino Foundation

Types of Rhinos

Image courtesy of Great Plains Foundation

Facts:
The species overall is critically endangered.

While there are occasional lion and croc attacks on rhinos, they are considered to have no natural predators.

Rhinos are one of the oldest groups of mammals.

Rhinos use scent-marking.

Rhinos do make noises.

A group of rhinos is called a crash.

The horns tend to grow backwards because the keratin in front grows faster than in the back.  The horn can regrow.

Image courtesy of Steve Rossi

Facts:

In the beginning of the 19th century, there were 1 million rhinos.  In 1970, there were about 70,000.  Now there are about 28,000.

They reproduce every 2.5-5 years and the gestation period is 15-16 months.  Twins are rare and babies spend about 3 years with mom.  Their lifespan is about 45 years.

The oxpeckers who ride on their backs will call out and signal danger.

The horn has ABSOLUTELY NO medicinal value though alternative / traditional medicine still attributes cures for cancer, hangovers, impotence, fever and other ailments to the horn.  In fact, the horn is made of keratin–the same as our nails and hair.

The horn carries a very high price on the black market–more than the price of gold.

Image courtesy of Wim Moons

White Rhino

Status = near-threatened.  Population = around 20,000.  There are two subspecies.  The Northern White has a population of only 3 remaining.  All are at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Kenya under armed guard.  Neither of the 2 females can reproduce.  The Southern White are considered one of conservation’s success stories as they were on the brink of extinction 100 years ago.  They are the only rhinos not endangered.  They are not white, but are brown or gray.  The Afrikaans word, “wyd” refers to its wide or square upper lip, not the color.  The lip distinguishes it from the black rhino.  They are not aggressive.  98.8% of white rhinos are found in 4 countries.  They have complex social structures.  Adult males defend territories of about 1 square mile.  They form groups of up to 14.  Females have a larger home range and breeding females are not allowed to leave a dominant male’s territory.  Poaching risks all the gains made in saving them and they are at risk for loss of habitat due to settlements and agriculture.

Image credit to earthwatch.org

Black Rhino

Status = critically endangered.  Population = around 5,000.  Demand for the horn caused a 96% decline in population between 1970-1992.  Also known as hook-lipped, the pointed and prehensile upper lip is used for feeding.  They are native to Eastern and Southern Africa and their lifespan is 35-50 years.  They have poor eyesight, excellent sense of smell, and their ears have a wide rotational range.  Their thick-layered skin is protective; their skin harbors external parasites often eaten by oxpeckers and egrets who perch on the rhino.  They are not actually black, but are gray or brown.  They originated about 50 million years ago.  The black and white rhino separated about 4-5 million years ago.  They have 2 horns, both made of keratin, and used for defense, intimidation, digging up roots, and breaking branches.  They are smaller than the white rhino and their head is held higher than the white because they are browsers, not grazers.  They are solitary but there is a strong bond between mother and calf.  They have the highest rates of mortal combat recorded for any mammal.  They can run up to 30 mph.  A calf weighs 80-110 pounds at birth, follows mom at 3 days old, weans at 2 years, and reaches sexual maturity at 5-7 for females and 7-8 for males.  They are more susceptible to disease in captivity and can overload on iron; in the wild, they have adjusted to consuming less.  All international trade of black rhino horn is prohibited under CITES Appendix 1 (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora); this of course has not deterred poachers.

Image credit to rhinos.org

Sumatran

Status = critically endangered.  Population = around 225.  They are at risk due to habitat loss and poaching.  While greater in number than the Javan, they are more threatened by poaching.  These smallest of the rhinos are the only Asian rhino with 2 horns and they are covered in long hair.  They are more closely related to the extinct wooly rhino than any other species alive today.  Only 2 captive females have reproduced in the last 15 years.  They live in forests and their habitats are being cleared for coffee and rice by illegal settlers and for palm oil and timber.  There are two subspecies, Western and Eastern and both barely survive extinction on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.

Image credit to panda.org

Javan

Status = critically endangered; they are the most threatened of all.  Population = 60, all confined to 1 national park in Java, Indonesia.  They are threatened by poaching, natural disasters, and disease.  Nearly 50% of the park they live in is overrun by Arenga Palm which is native but invasive and does not leave room for food for the rhinos.  There are none in captivity and they were wiped out in Vietnam in 2010 because of poaching.  They have a single horn that is up to 10 inches long.  They are closely related and similar in appearance to the Greater One-Horned Rhino.  3 calves were spotted on a new camera trap this year.

Image courtesy of Heather Smith

Greater One-Horned Rhino

Status = vulnerable.  Population = 600 in the wild by 1975.  With aggressive conservation efforts, by 2012 the population was over 3,000.  This is the largest species and they have a single black horn that can be up to 25 inches long.  They were once found across the entire northern Indian subcontinent but now are only in the Eastern Himalayas.  Human conflict and poaching are now their biggest threats.  Asian rhino horn is believed to be more effective medicinally than African.  They are a gray / brown color with the skin folds that make them appear armor-plated as the folds do for white and black rhinos.  They are solitary and gather to graze.  Nepal recently marked 2 consecutive years without poaching and the government just put a rhino on its currency.

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