COULD RHINOS GO EXTINCT IN OUR LIFETIME?
Unfortunately, the answer is yes. But first some basic rhino facts.
HOW MANY SPECIES OF RHINO EXIST TODAY?
There are five: white (with northern & southern subspecies), black, Indian, Javan & Sumatran. And how many rhinos are left on the planet? Sadly, less than 30,000 in all. By the numbers:
|2||White Northern (Critically Endangered)|
|20,000||White Southern (Near Threatened)|
|5,000||Black (Critically Endangered)|
|3,500||Indian (Greater one-horned) (Vulnerable)|
|80||Sumatran (Critically Endangered)|
|67||Javan (Critically Endangered)|
Several subspecies have already gone extinct. In 2011 the Western black rhino was declared extinct by the IUCN. And the Northern white has only 2 (yes, that’s 2 in the whole world) animals left and both are female. The last remaining male, Sudan, died in 2018.
WHY ARE THERE SO FEW RHINOS?
The main reason is poaching. These magnificent creatures are killed for their horns. But why?
Many people in Asia believe the horn, when ground into powder, cures all sorts of ailments & disease. However, the horn is made of keratin, just like our fingernails and has no medicinal qualities. This is another myth about animals which needs to be dispelled.
Other factors are the loss of habitat, human conflict and even volcanic eruption. What? That sounds crazy.
The greatest threat to the Javan rhino, other than humans, could be a volcanic eruption or tsunami. On Dec 22, 2018, the volcano Anak Krakatau erupted which caused a tsunami killing over 400 people on the island where the only remaining Javan rhinos live. No rhinos were hurt but it could happen again and wipe out the last of the Javan rhinos. Since there are no Javan rhinos in captivity, a catastrophe from another eruption could cause the Javan rhino to go extinct.
Unfortunately, the remaining Sumatran rhinos are also in a dire situation. They are the smallest rhino and only exist in very fragmented populations in Sumatra. A huge conservation project, the Sumatran Rhino Rescue, is underway to try and breed the few Sumatran rhinos in captivity. Read a great National Geographic article describing the efforts of the coalition trying to save the Sumatran rhino from extinction.
BUT THERE IS GOOD NEWS
Some rhino populations have rebounded over 40% in the last decade. The southern white rhino has rebounded from less than 100 to almost 20,000 due to conservation efforts in Africa. And in India & Nepal, strict laws have helped the Indian rhino increase its population from less than 200 animals to around 3,500 today. Black rhinos are also critically endangered but their population is increasing, thanks to conservation measures throughout the world. Very cool.
WHERE CAN YOU SEE RHINOS?
Of course, if you can afford a safari in Africa or Asia, you might get to see them in the wild. But most folks can only see them by visiting a local zoo or wildlife park. There are 60 black rhinos in zoos across the country and 248 white rhinos so there are plenty of opportunities to see one. Check to see if you have any in your neighborhood. White Oak Conservation actually has white, black & Indian rhinos so it is well worth a visit.
COOL RHINO FACTS
Rhinos are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. Sometimes as much as 120 pounds of plants a day.
Rhinos lived almost 50 million years ago.
The only predators of rhinos are humans. Which means we are the reason they are endangered.
Baby rhinos look exactly like mini-adults when they are born.
How many horns does a rhino have? Well, it depends…The Javan & Indian rhino each have one horn. The white, black & Sumatran have 2 horns.
Here are some other interesting rhino facts.
Rhinos often wallow in the mud to protect their skin from sunburn.
Mother rhinos usually have one calf after a pregnancy of 15-16 months so they are slow to reproduce.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Join a rhino conservation organization. We donate to The International Rhino Foundation. Just be sure and do your homework.
Foster a rhino at The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. You can help a baby rhino that has been orphaned with the goal of reintegrating it back into the wild. Or give someone the gift of fostering. We gifted an orphan foster to my mom for a Christmas present this year. She loved it.
Learn more about rhinos and spread the word on social media. With five species, there are lots of rhino facts to share.
Seek out art depicting rhinos. Check out Dale’s sculpture “Dusty Dignity” of a black rhino on our Sculpture page. The sculpture will be used to raise money for and awareness about rhinos.