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IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist


CITES Rhino Report for Bangkok COP16
The IUCN Asian and African Rhino Specialist Groups, along with TRAFFIC, have just completed a joint Rhino Report for the Sixteenth Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna Conference of the Parties (CITES COP16) in Bangkok in March 2013. Click here to read the report.
IUCN World Conservation Congress Rhino Resolution
At its World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea in September 2012, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature adopted a formal resolution on the Conservation of rhinoceros species in Africa and Asia.  Click here to read the IUCN Recommendation 138. 

African and Asian rhinoceroses - Status, conservation and trade

A recent report by the IUCN Species Survival Commission, African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups and TRAFFIC warns that since 2006 there has been alarming increase in poaching and the illegal trade of rhino horn. Black, white and greater one-horned rhinos have shown population increases since 2006 but in Africa alone a minimum of 470 rhinos have been poached since January 2006. To read the full report click here.
The Asian Rhino Specialist Group was formed within the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) at its Bangkok meeting in 1979. Professor Ruedi Schenkel was the first AsRSG chair. He advocated strongly for preparation of Asian Rhino Conservation Plan for range countries. Since 1982, numerous meetings of the AsRSG have been held.  The Asian Rhino Action Plan was published in 1989, edited by then-AsRSG chair Mohd Khan bin Momin Khan. This action plan was refined in the updated, “Asian Rhinos Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan” edited by the late Drs. Thomas J. Foose and Nico van Strien in 1997.
Current Chair (2008 - 2011):
 AsRSG Chair
Dr. Bibhab K. Talukdar
c/o Aaranyak, 50 Samanwoy path (Survey)
Beltola, Guwahati
Assam, India

Pachyderm, the journal of the African Elephant, African Rhino and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, provides the most current information available regarding in situ conservation and management of African elephants and African and Asian rhinos. Pachyderm is produced by the IUCN/SSC African Elephant Specialist Group in Nairobi, Kenya. Pachyderm includes peer-reviewed articles on elephant and rhino research, activity reports from the three Specialist Groups, regular field notes from the African Rhino Specialist Group and Asian Rhino Specialist Group, as well as numerous other short articles, book reviews and opinion papers on rhino and elephant conservation and management.  

On the right is the Executive Summary of the AsRSG Status Survey and Conservation Action for Asian Rhino. Click below to download the full contents of the Action plan in a downloadable pdf file. The file is 19 MB and is in Adobe Acobat format. If your browser does not read this format you will need Acrobat Reader.
The AsfRSG Action Plan is available in hard copy from:
IUCN Publications Services Unit
219c Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB2 0DL
United Kingdom
Tel: +4..., Fax: +44 1223 277175

Executive Summary
There are three species of Asian rhino: the Indian or greater one-horned Asian rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis); the Javan or lesser one-horned Asian rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus); and the Sumatran or Asian two-homed rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis). The Indian rhino is, along with the African white rhino, the second largest living species of land mamma land inhabits riverine grasslands in India and Nepal. The Javan rhino is in the same genus as the Indian rhino but is a smaller species and inhabits tropical forests but particularly along water courses. The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of all rhino species and inhabits the most dense habitat in tropical forests. Both the Indian and Javan rhinos are one-horned while the Sumatran rhino has two horns, similar to the African rhino species. The Sumatran rhino is also known as the hairy rhinoceros and is closely related to the woolly rhino that inhabited Eurasia during the Ice Ages. The Indian rhino is a grazer similar to the African white rhino. The Sumatran rhino is a browser similar to the African black rhino. The Javan rhino is a mixed feeder.  Historically, all three species were abundant and rather widely distributed in Asia through at least the middle of the 19th century. The Indian occurred all along the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra River Basins; earlier it was even more broadly distributed even into southern India. The Javan occurred from eastern India throughout the rest of mainland South East Asia and on the islands of Sumatra and Java. The Sumatran rhino also extended from eastern India through mainland South East Asia and on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo.  Currently, all three species are threatened with extinction, two critically so, as assessed by the new IUCN Red List Categories.
The Sumatran rhino is the most critically endangered of all rhino species with a population of 250—400 distributed fragmentarily in Sumatra, Peninsula Malaysia, and Sabah. Remnants may survive in Sarawak, Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos but their existence is unconfirmed and the viability of any populations unlikely.
The Javan rhino is the rarest of all rhino species with fewer than 100 individuals estimated to survive, most in a single protected area in Indonesia; a few in an unprotected area in Vietnam.
The Indian rhino is the success story in Asian rhino conservation with over 2000 individuals in India and Nepal. This population has recovered from very low numbers comparable to the current situation for the Sumatran and even Javan. However, threats to this species are significant and only continued and increased protection will enable survival.
The critical situation for Asian rhinos is emphasized by the fact that the number of all three Asian species combined is approximately equal to or perhaps slightly fewer than the rarer of the two African rhino species, the black rhino, which has received much more publicity over the last decade.
As in Africa, poaching for the horn is the major threat to Asian rhinos. Poaching is significant for all three species and is still rampant on the Sumatran rhino. The primary demand for the horn is its use in traditional Chinese medicine throughout the Far East. Asian rhino horn also appears to be a speculator's commodity in several consumer states.  Habitat degradation is also a significant threat, more so than for the African rhinos since two of the Asian species are denizens of tropical rainforest which continues to decrease in extent. Forest habitat is being destroyed through unsustainable exploitation of timber and conversion of land to agriculture and other human uses. 
Immediately, the major requirement for Asian rhino conservation is increased protection in situ through core areas similar to the intensive protection zones and sanctuaries that have been successful in Africa.  Managed breeding remains a potential tool for Asian rhino conservation and is successful for the Indian rhino.  However, traditional captive propagation methods have not succeeded for Sumatran rhino and have not been tried for Javan rhino. Attempts are under development to establish managed breeding centers in native habitat at least for the Sumatran and perhaps for the Javan rhino to assist in their protection and conservation.
Ultimately, major requirements for rhino conservation are:
  • cessation of the illegal trade in rhino horn and products
  • stabilization, extension, and improvement of rhino habitat
  • recovery of rhino populations to viable levels
  • support of local communities for and hence benefit to local communities from rhino conservation.
Significant funds are required both from governmental and non-governmental sources, both inside and outside range states, if Asian rhinos are to be conserved from extinction.  A rigorously defined set of projects with estimated costs has been prepared to indicate the actions and support required. The total cost of these projects is approximately US$ 33 Million for the period 1996—2000. Ideally, rhino conservation would become financially sustainable and self-sufficient obviating dependence on the vagaries of donor support. At least one program is in progress and others are under discussion to try to generate such self-sustaining income.