To mark World Rhino Day, we’ve brought together expertise from Africa and Asia to celebrate this incredible species, highlight potential threats and showcase how conservation efforts are making a difference
Did you know there are five species of rhino? In Africa there are two species, the black rhino and the white rhino, while Asia is home to the Javan, Sumatran and Greater one-horned rhino. Regardless of continent, their threats remain similar but their futures could be very different…
Starting in Africa, Cath Lawson, East Africa Regional Manager, explains the outlook of the black and white rhino
I’ll be honest; rhino related stories in Africa are often pretty depressing. In 2014, for example, 1,215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone – that’s an average of three per day and more than a 9,300% increase from the number of rhinos poached in 2007.
But there are reasons to be hopeful for African rhino species. Having recovered from fewer than 100 individuals in 1895, there are approximately 20,000 white rhinos left in the wild today and they prove that committed conservation effort can deliver results.
From boots to a new DNA lab
WWF has been involved in African rhino conservation since the organisation began in 1961. Throughout that time we’ve supported anti-poaching and monitoring efforts. We work with our partners to improve ranger training and data management systems and to ensure that staff have the necessary equipment that they need to do their jobs. This can be simple – but vital – things like tents and boots or more sophisticated technology like night vision equipment.
In fact, earlier this year a new wildlife forensic and genetics laboratory was launched in Kenya
Efforts are paying off
In Kenya last year the black rhino population grew by 2.7% and at the end of 2014 it was estimated that the population stood at 648 – the third largest black rhino population in Africa.
In South Africa, the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project has helped address a lack of growth in the country’s black rhino population. Since the project started in 2003, black rhino have been reintroduced on to more than 220,000 hectares in South Africa; ten new populations have been translocated to new sites where they can breed into significant populations; 160 black rhino have been translocated; and there are more than 60 calves on project sites. Not to mention the fact that we’ve proved rhinos can fly!
Moving to Asia, where Nicola Loweth, India and China Regional Officer, discusses the future of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos
Despite the serious threats to their future, there are Asian rhino success stories thanks to the coordinated conservation efforts of governments, local communities and dedicated rangers in Nepal and India.
At the beginning of the 20th Century there were fewer than 200 greater-one horned rhinos in the wild. With improved management of protected areas, strengthened anti-poaching effort and creating new populations of rhinos through translocations, numbers have increased to 3,555.
In Nepal, where a government-backed Conservation Action plan is in place, the country’s rhino population has increased 21% since 2011. In fact, over the last five years Nepal has celebrated “zero poaching” for 365 days for three years – with no rhinos lost to poachers – a fantastic achievement.
Sumatran rhinos in crisis
Bringing the greater one-horned rhino back from the brink of extinction is one of conservation’s greatest success stories but we’re now battling to save the Sumatran rhino.
Historically ranging across most of South-east Asia, the Sumatran rhino is now only found in the wild in Indonesia. Here, less than 100 individuals in total are estimated to live in three isolated populations after the Sumatran rhino was sadly declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia. There is hope for a recovery but it requires high-level political will, proper management and strengthened protection; something that a partnership of conservation organisations are working on together.
The discovery of Javan calves
The critically endangered Javan rhino, the rarest of all the rhino species, has seen its numbers creeping up since conservation began in 1967. Found in only one protected area, Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia, the species is extremely vulnerable to extinction due to natural catastrophes, disease and poaching.
We’ve recently received some great news – evidence that the rhinos are breeding after three calves were spotted on camera trap footage between the months of April and July – two males and a female. This discovery of the calves raises the estimated number of Javan rhinos to 60.