Post-Graduate Ecology Student (MSc) soon to graduate. Blogging about all things conservation, ecology, sustainable technology and green related. Currently searching for jobs/PhD's in any of the above fields.
If you have not read part 1 of this article (which includes descriptions of the 5 species of Rhino) I would suggest a quick read, as the following article assumes prior knowledge of rhino species/distribution/characteristics etc.
Rhinos have been driven to near extinction – the world rhino population has fallen by more than 90 percent in the past 30 years. Whereas 30 species of rhino once roamed the planet, only five species remain today, and all of them are endangered. Conservation projects exist across Africa and Asia working desperately to conserve the rhino. The main threats faced by all species of rhino are poaching for their horns, habitat loss and as populations decrease; a reduction in genetic viability with inbreeding depression.
The pointless slaughter of a rhino from South Africa for it’s horns
The most abundant of all the rhino species is the southern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) (classified as near threatened) with a population estimated to between 14,500 and 18,000. However, this hasn’t always been so, at the turn of the 20th century there were fewer than 200 individuals left in the wild as a direct result of extreme poaching and habitat destruction in South Africa during the 19th century. Thanks to conservationists and researchers the Southern white rhino abundance increased significantly and continues to do so today, which offers some limited hope for other rhino species whose population numbers have plummeted in recent years. The Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) has potentially already become extinct in the wild with as few as 7 individuals left in captivity. A breeding program has begun in Kenya, with the hope of reintroducing the Northern white rhino back into the wild but with such a small population remaining the odds are slim. The black rhino (Diceros bicornis)is critically endangered and is found in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Rwanda, S Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Black rhino numbers have increased over the last 7 years from about 2,500 to about 4,200 as a direct result of conservation efforts by groups such as the International Rhino Foundation, however, they still remain critically endangered. Of the 4 subspecies of black rhino the Western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) was declared extinct in 2011. Like all rhino they were heavily hunted during the early 20th century, however, the population began to grow in the 1930′s due to conservation work, but due to a lack of management, protection lapsed over the latter half of the century, by the 1980′s the population was down to the hundreds and with increased poaching by 2000 an estimated 10 individuals remained in Northern Cameroon. Poaching and the failure of governments and agencies led to the demise of the western black rhino and as there are no known individuals in captivity this sub-species may well be gone forever.
The following graph illustrates rhino population estimates in South Africa since 1993:
As you can see from the graph the white rhino as discussed earlier has increased significantly in population size whereas the black rhino is a far more gradual process.
The Indian Rhino (AKA greater one horned) is classified as vulnerable and (Rhinoceros unicornis) like the Southern white rhino is another success story in regards to the power of proper conservation measures and Government co-operation in bringing species back from the edge. In the early 20th century the population was estimated to be fewer than 200, however with strict co-operation coming from the Indian and Nepalese wildlife authorities the population has increased to approximately 2,850 today. However as we have seen with the Western black rhino and other animal species in the past a recovery today does not mean that the species is out of danger, as the recovery is still precarious without continued and increased support.
The video below shows one success (and the determination) of the rhino anti-poacher patrols in Kaziranga National Park, India:
The Javan rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus) is critically endangered and is only known to be found within Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park in west Java after the other population found within Vietnam (sub-species: Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) became extinct when the last one was shot by a poacher in 2010. It is the rarest of all rhino species with only 27-44 individuals remaining. They are guarded 24 hours a day by armed Rhino Protection Units which when combined with establishing a second population of the species is the best hope of preventing this species from going extinct. The IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group recommended that the “Vietnamese” Javan rhinos should be bred with the “Indonesian” Javan rhinos to try to increase the species’ population and to preserve genetic diversity. Unfortunately, politics got in the way of saving the Vietnamese populaiton. The government of Vietnam would have to had given permission for the rhinos to be captured and translocated to another country, or the Indonesian government permission to transfer rhinos to Vietnam. Neither government was willing to do this, which is why intergovernmental co-operations is essential to conservation practices on a global scale. Politics should not be a barrier to conservation efforts! Loss of habitat, especially as the result of wars, such as the Vietnam War, in Southeast Asia, has also contributed to the species’s decline and hindered recovery
The Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) is critically endangered and is declining faster than any other rhino species as a direct result of poaching. Population numbers have decreased by more than 50% over the last 20 years, with fewer than 200 remaining. Indonesia and Sabah, Malaysia hold the only significant populations. Sumatran rhinos exist only is protected areas where they are physically guarded from harm by Rhino Protection Units. Between 12 and 25 animals remain in Sabah, Malaysia. The remainder of the population lives in three Indonesian National Parks in Sumatra: Gunung Leuser, Way Kambas, and Bukit Barisan Selatan.
The demand for rhino horn for use in Chinese medicine (not just in china but throughout Asia) is increasing and with that comes a higher price for the rhino horn and thus an increase in poaching. More than 400 rhinos were lost in south africa last year and the number has been increasing each year. The graph below illustrates the rise in rhino poaching in south africa in over the last 11 years:
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the horn, which is shaved or ground into a powder and dissolved in boiling water, is used to treat fever, rheumatism, gout, and other disorders. According to the 16th century Chinese pharmacist Li Shi Chen, the horn could also cure snakebites, hallucinations, typhoid, headaches, carbuncles, vomiting, food poisoning, and “devil possession.” (However, it is not, as commonly believed, prescribed as an aphrodisiac).
Historical mentions of other uses for the horns date back thousands of years. In Greek mythology, they were said to possess the ability to purify water. The ancient Persians of the 5th century BC thought that vessels carved from the horn could be used to detect poisoned liquids, causing bubbles in the presence of some poisons — a belief that persisted into the 18th and 19th centuries among the royal courts of Europe.
Modern science has more or less disproved many of the supposed uses of rhino horn in medicine and indeed come up with modern medical alternatives which are far more effective at curing the aforementioned conditions.
If the remaining species of rhino are to survive beyond the next century an increase in education about rhinos and the supposed medicinal use of the horn is necessary along with increased funds for anti poaching patrols, tougher sentences on poachers and an increase in suitable habitat, particularly for the Asian species.
This article will be written in two parts; the first part introduces you to the various species of rhino and their characteristics; the second part will go into more detail about the conservation of the rhino. The second part will be completed shortly.
There are five species of rhino, of which, 3 are found in Asia and two are found in Africa.
Newborn white rhinoceros
Their scientific classification is as follows:
The two species native to Africa are Ceratotherium simum (white rhino) andDiceros bicornis (black rhino or hook-lipped rhino). From these two species we get a further six subspecies, two white rhino sub species; Ceratotherium simum simum (Southern whiterhino) andCeratotherium simum cottoni (Northern white rhino). The black rhino has four sub species; Diceros bicornis minor (south-central black rhino), Diceros bicornis bicornis(South-Western black rhino), Diceros bicornis michaeli (East African black rhino) and Diceros bicornis longipes (West African black rhino). The three species native to Asia are Rhinoceros unicornis (the Indian or Greater one horned rhinoceros), Rhinoceros sondaicus (Javan rhinoceros) and Dicerorhinus sumatrensis (Sumatran rhinoceros).
The Indian Rhinoceros
Weight: Varies, but can exceed 3,500 Kg
Size: Length 3.5m-4.6m and a height of 1.8m-2m
Horns: 2 on the snout, front horn is larger and averages 90 cm in length but can reach 1.5m
Around 11,330 left in the wild
Prominent muscular hump which supports the head
Flat broad mouth
Hair located prominently on the ear an tail tips with the rest sparsely covering the body
Colour which ranges from yellowish brown to slate grey
Size: Length 3.5m-3.9m and a height of 1.5m-1.75m
Horns: 2 on the snout, front horn is larger and averages 50 cm in length but can reach 1.4m. Rarely a third horn will develop.
Around 3,610 left in the wild
Smaller in size than the white rhino
has a pointed lip for browsing leaves (see image below)
Weight: 2,500kg-3200kg (Females around 1900kg)
Size: Length 3.5m-3.9m and a height of 1.75m-2m
Horns: Single horn at a size of 20cm-60cm
Around 2500 left in the wild
Colour range of brown to grey
Folds of skin that resemble plates of armour
Upper lip is semi-prehensile
Weight: 900kg-1400kg and 1,360kg-2000kg (various reports of weights due to rarity)
Size: Length 3.1m-3.2m and a height of 1.5m-1.7
Horns: Single horn at a size of up to 26cm in females no horn present or small nodule
Less than 70 left in the wild with estimates of 27-44: it is believed the last one in Vietnam was poached in 2010.
Folds of skin that resemble plates of armour but in a lesser form to the Indian rhino.
Weight: around 700kg
Size: Length 2.4m-3.15m and a height of around 1.3m
Horns: Two horns with the front being the largest 25-79cm. The males have significantly larger horns than the females.
Around 300 left in the wild
Colour of reddish brown
Short and stubby legs
Hair can range from dense (see image below) to scarce