belong to the same group of animals as horses; both are "odd-toed
ungulates", or Perissodactyla. Rhinos have three toes,
which leave distinctive tracks. They have thick skin which forms
inflexible plates over the shoulders, haunches, sides, forehead
and cheeks. Rhinos are surprisingly agile, despite their bulky
appearance. They have poor eyesight, but exceptional hearing
and an acute sense of smell. There are five species of rhinoceros,
all of which are endangered.
Status of the Rhinoceros
(Ceratotherium simum simum)
(Ceratotherium simum cottoni)
female with her young is the basic social unit. Gestation (pregnancy)
is 15-16 months. One young is born, which begins browsing vegetation
when only 1 - 2 months old. Baby rhinos suckle for one year.
A baby is usually born every 2 - 5 years. The previous offspring
will be driven away before a new baby is born. Young rhinos
become sexually mature at about 4-5 years old, but males are
unlikely to be able to mate until they are about ten years old,
because of competition with older males. Rhinos live for about
maintain over-lapping home ranges, which are between 2.6km2
and 130km2, depending on how much food is available. They mark
the boundaries with faeces and urine. Rhino are fairly tolerant
to animals that share their range, though they can be aggressive
towards strangers. They use their horns during fighting and
can cause serious injuries to one another. They keep track of
each other's movements by visiting and contributing to middens.
Southern white rhinos are the most numerous of the rhino species
and also the largest; they can weigh up to 2000kg. They were
probably once abundant over all of the better-watered grasslands
of Africa, including much of the present Sahara. At the beginning
of the century, southern white rhinos were heading for extinction
and only 10-20 individuals remained. There are now about 7,500.
Over 90% are in South Africa. The northern sub-species is highly
endangered and only a small remnant population of about 30 individuals
remain, in Garamba National Park, in what was previously known
as Zaire. Despite their name, white rhinos are dark grey in
colour, like all rhinos. "White" may in fact be a
corruption of the Afrikaans word for "wide". They
are also known as the square-lipped or grass rhino. Their broad,
flat mouth is ideal for grazing short grass.
In the past, black rhinos lived in most of sub-Saharan Africa.
In the late 1960s there were about 70,000, but now only 2,400
remain, in scattered pockets, mainly in east Africa. Black rhinos
are browsers which use their prehensile upper lip to grasp twigs
and branches when they are feeding. They are also known as browse
or hook-lipped rhinos. Their preferred habitat is the edges
of thickets and savannahs. They are naturally scarce or absent
in forests and open grassland. They weigh up to 1400kg.
One-horned or Great Indian Rhinoceros:
In the past, the species was found as far west as the Khyber
Pass, which links the Indian subcontinent with Afghanistan,
and along the foot of the Himalayas as far as Assam in the East.
Now they occur only in isolated pockets of India and Nepal,
with a total population of around 2000. 75% live in India, where
there are only two, truly viable populations, which live in
Kaziranga and Manas National Parks. The population in Kaziranga
is now about 1,200. The second largest population, in Manas
Park, now stands at just 12.
Rhinoceros and Javan Rhinoceros:
At one time Javan and Sumatran rhinos ranges from Eastern India
through south-east Asia. The Javan rhino inhabited the lowlands,
while the Sumatran rhino favoured uplands. The Sumatran rhino
is now found only in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak,
and Kalimantan in Borneo. Both Javan and Sumatran Rhinos live
in dense forest and are secretive, so records of their numbers
are poor and they are seldom sighted. The current population
is estimated to be just 270 individuals. The Sumatran rhino
is the smallest and hairiest of the five rhino species, and
is also known as the woolly rhino. It is thought to be a descendent
of the prehistoric woolly rhinoceros depicted in Stone Age cave
drawings. Complete carcasses of this creature have been found
in Siberian permafrost. In July 1999 the first photographs of
the critically endangered Vietnamese rhinoceros were obtained.
These rhinos are a sub-species of the Javan rhino and there
are thought to be only 5 - 8 of these elusive rhino still surviving.
have remained unchanged for 60,000 years and are perfectly adapted
to their habitat. They have the potential to be highly successful
animals, but unfortunately human greed and superstition is threatening
their very survival. They have been affected by habitat loss
and fragmentation, but the main threat is poaching for their
horns, which are used in traditional Chinese Medicine and to
make ceremonial dagger handles.
horn is made from keratin, the same protein from which human
hair and finger nails are made. Scientists from a Swiss pharmaceutical
company found that rhino horn had no effect on the human body.
The use of rhino as an aphrodisiac is a superstition, but still
persists today in some cultures. It is probably perpetuated
by dealers who want to maintain its price. According to CITES
data, virtually all the rhino horn products on sale are exported
from China, where medicines are manufactured. Over 30 countries
are listed as destinations for the exports, though the main
markets are in east Asia. Reputable practitioners of Chinese
Medicine have condemned the use of endangered species in medicines.
rhino horns are destined for the Yemen, where they are in demand
for use in decorative dagger handles. The daggers, known as
jambiyyas, have traditional and symbolic worth and those with
rhino horn handles are the most sought after, because rhino
horn is thought to make a man invincible.
All species of rhino, except the southern white rhino are listed
on Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits trade in them or their
derivatives. Southern white rhinos are listed on Appendix II
of CITES, but with a special annotation to the listing which
prohibits trade in their horns. Illegal trade in rhino horn
persists because of poor enforcement and because rhino horn
is so valuable. South Africa's rhino population is now thought
to be stable and there is pressure for the legalisation of trade
in rhino horns from South Africa; a legal market for rhino horn
would feed demand, encourage poaching and smuggling and complicate
only survive in protected areas. Wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe,
Namibia and Swaziland have de-horned their rhinos in an attempt
to discourage poaching. However, poachers who have spent several
days tracking a rhino will often kill a de-horned rhino, to
avoid the risk of wasted effort in the future. Even the disc
of horn which remains after de-horning is valuable and can be
BJWDF USA runs an adoption scheme which supports
the reintroduction of orphaned black rhinos in Kenya.
BJWDF USA supports the Rhino Ark Aberdare
BJWDF USA supports Kenya Wildlife Service
(KWS) and their anti-poaching efforts.