The world is home to five different species of rhinos. Africa is home to both black and white rhinos. Asia is home to the Javan, Sumatran, and Greater One-Horned Rhinos. Sumatran, Javan, and Black rhinos are in grave danger of extinction. Actually, the protected national park on the island of Java is the only place in the world where Javan rhinos may be found. After nearly disappearing from the wild, there are now over 3,500 Greater One-Horned Rhinos because to conservation initiatives.
Their status is vulnerable. Once believed to be extinct in the wild, the Southern White rhino is now considered Near Threatened. Conversely, Northern White Rhinos are extremely rare even in captivity and are extinct in the wild. There are now just two creatures left. Living in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya, they are both constantly watched over.
Why Did Rhinos Become Endangered?
During the early part of the 20th century, hunting was a major factor in the decline of these creatures in the wild. By the 1970s, there were just 70,000 rhinos left in the wild, down from an estimated half a million at the start of the 20th century. Following public awareness of the rhino population’s extinction concern, regulations were modified to forbid hunting and killing rhinos.
That does not, however, always prevent illicit trading and poaching. Despite being outlawed, rhinos are still murdered for their horns, which adds to their endangered condition. Loss of habitat is another factor. These creatures struggle to live to adulthood because there are fewer places that can sustain the varied environment on which they depend. The majority of rhinos that are still found in the wild reside in protected areas and wildlife preserves.
What Is the Main Reason Rhinos Are Killed?
Usually, rhinos are slaughtered for their horns. The illegal trade in rhino horns persists even though it is forbidden to buy, sell, or poach rhinos. Asia has the most demand. Horns are ground and sold as eye-catching gifts or used in traditional Eastern medicine. It’s important to remember that not all of Asia is experiencing a thriving illegal rhino horn trade. It still occurs, though, and has terrible consequences for the wild population.
How Many Rhinos Are Left in 2024?
About 27,000 rhinos are thought to be left in the wild worldwide, according to the World Wildlife Fund. It is understandable why the loss in the wild population is such a major concern, given how many rhinos there were in Africa and Asia alone at the beginning of the 20th century—up to 500,000 at one point.
In their natural habitat, rhinos consume grass, fruit, shrubs, and bark, as they are herbivores. They play a significant role in the ecology. Rhinos disperse seeds while they graze and move about, promoting the grassland’s health. For the many other species that depend on these plants for nutrition, this is essential. These animals can weigh up to 7,500 pounds, yet they can also serve as food for lions, hyenas, and wild dogs in Africa, as well as tigers and leopards in Asia. Additionally, wild populations support local tourism in their home regions. They are among the most sought-after creatures to view on safari and one of the “Big Five.”
Preserving a Threatened Species
Since rhino horn trading negatively affects the survival of rhinos in the wild, the Convention on International trading in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) outlawed its commerce. This act, which dates back to 1975, facilitated the prosecution of cases involving cross-border unlawful trading. However, in some regions of the world, enforcement is weaker, thus it depends on that. These are the places where the criminal market keeps up its operations. Increased enforcement and stricter rules have the potential to reduce the illicit rhino horn market. Before these creatures are even in danger, illegal poaching is also stopped by increased law enforcement presence in the areas where they reside.
Preserving their habitat can also increase rhino populations in the wild. Changes in their food source, increased demand for agricultural land, and increased human interaction can all pose serious problems for them. Increasing the size of protected areas can improve herd health and promote better population mixing. In order to establish new regions, conservation initiatives also deliberately relocate portions of the current populations.