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All five rhino species are threatened to some degree. Populations of two species – greater one-horned and white - were reduced to the low hundreds at one point, but have rebounded into the thousands or tens of thousands over a century’s time. Africa’s black rhino was probably the most numerous of all, but reached a low point of only a few thousand animals in the late 1990s, and has essentially doubled its population since then. We have no reliable historical population estimates for the Sumatran and Javan rhinos, but each is now believed to number one hundred individuals or less, and both are imminently threatened with extinction. Despite the current poaching crisis, overall rhino numbers continue to increase steadily. However, the status of each species, as seen below, is significantly different.
Javan Rhino (Rhinoceros sondaicus)
Probably no more than 44 individuals in the wild – Population stable?
Javan rhinos now survive only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park. The species is believed to have occurred in nine other countries - India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, China and Vietnam – but the last individual recorded outside Indonesia was killed by poachers in Vietnam in 2010. Population estimates for Ujung Kulon National Park are based on field observations by Rhino Protection Units (RPUs), ground surveys, and data from video camera-trap research in 2011. There has been no known rhino poaching since Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) were established in the late 1990s. The highest conservation priorities for saving the Javan rhino from extinction include protecting this last remaining population, expanding rhino habitat within the Gunung Honje section of Ujung Kulon, and identifying a suitable translocation site within the species’ historic range for establishing a second population.
Sumatran Rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis)
Probably no more than 100 individuals in the wild - Population decreasing
Rhino specialists now believe that as few as 100 Sumatran rhinos may survive as fragmented populations in Indonesia’s Bukit Barisan Selatan, Gunung Leuser and Way Kambas National Parks, as well as in tiny, unprotected forests of Sabah, Malaysia. This estimate reflects the apparent loss of isolated populations in Peninsular Malaysia, declining numbers in Malaysian Borneo, and the lack of reliable population estimates from northern Sumatra. The only place that wild Sumatran rhino populations may be increasing is Way Kambas National Park in southern Sumatra. Human encroachment of tropical forest habitat and poaching remain the most serious threats. At present, 10 animals are maintained in managed breeding programs in the US, Sabah, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Greater One-horned Rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis)
More than 3,300 individuals in the wild – Population slowly increasing
The greater one-horned rhino population now numbers more than3,300 animals in India and Nepal, thanks to the continued protection and reintroduction efforts, and despite recent increases in poaching activity in northeastern India. The Indian state of Assam remains the stronghold for this species with more than 2,400 rhinos found in Kaziranga, Manas and Orang National Parks, and the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary. Just over 250 individuals are also documented from protected areas in the states of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, and more than 500 greater one-horned rhinos remain in Nepal, the majority in Chitwan National Park. Under Indian Rhino Vision 2020, translocations from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park have re-established the species in Manas National Park, where two dozen animals have been reintroduced, and recent breeding has occurred. Poaching remains a threat, but increased protection efforts bode well for the species’ future.
Black Rhino (Diceros bicornis)
Just over 5,000 individuals in the wild – Population slowly increasing
Black rhinos remain victims of heavy and sophisticated poaching activity, particularly in South Africa, yet their numbers continue to slowly increase despite this ongoing threat. Normal reproduction appears to have offset mortality to some degree and populations across the species’ range have actually remained relatively stable or even increased thanks to staunch anti-poaching efforts. Presently, the species occurs in nine countries: the Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Botswana. The highest priorities for safeguarding this species are to bolster anti-poaching activities and to maintain intensive management of wild populations.
White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum)
At least 20,400 individuals in the wild – Population slowly increasing
The white rhino is most abundant of the five living rhino species. Overall, populations have remained relatively stable in the face of increasingly aggressive and sophisticated poaching, but the situation is almost certainly unsustainable over the long-term. White rhinos presently occur in ten countries: the Republic of South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, Uganda, Mozambique. The Republic of South Africa still holds the overwhelming majority of the population, but is also the country hardest hit by the poaching crisis, with an average of one to two animals per day lost to poachers in 2012. The highest priority for ensuring this species’ survival is to step-up protection of wild and free-ranging populations, and for range country governments to enforce their wildlife crime laws.