For five years, African rhinos have been poached at a rate of three per day. Overall, two-thirds of the world’s five rhino species could be lost in our lifetime. We urge governments and individuals to help “Keep the Five Alive.”
Of the five species, the Sumatran rhino is the most in peril, with population numbers fewer than 80.
Javan rhinos, numbering no more than 67 animals, are found only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, where they are heavily protected.
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The Government of South Africa and dedicated conservationists teamed up to bring the southern white rhino, a subspecies, back from fewer than 100 individuals in the early 1900s to roughly 20,000 today. White rhinos are the primary target of poaching gangs in Africa; births are just barely outpacing deaths. The death of the last male northern white rhino, the member of a functionally-extinct subspecies of white rhino, has recently garnered a lot of public attention. The subspecies had the misfortune of living in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where wild populations were decimated by militant armies. Sadly, by the time expert trackers determined that they were extinct in the wild, only a handful of zoo animals remained and none were capable of breeding. Today, only two non-breeding females are living out their days in a reserve in Kenya.
Thanks to strict protection by government authorities in India and Nepal, the greater one-horned, or Indian, rhino has rebounded from fewer than 200 individuals to more than 3,550 today. The challenge is to use lessons from these two species to recover the three that are in desperate trouble.
Africa’s black rhino is slowly coming back from horrendous losses. By 1993, fewer than 2,300 rhinos remained from populations numbering more than 65,000 in the 1970s. Today, black rhino numbers hover around 5,000 animals, but, like white rhinos, they are being particularly hard-hit by a poaching epidemic.
In Asia, fewer than 80 Sumatran rhinos remain, and because the population has declined more than 70 percent in the past 20 years, it may well be the most endangered large mammal on Earth. Three small, isolated populations exist on Indonesia’s Sumatra Island, plus a tiny handful of animals in Indonesian Borneo. Remaining populations are heavily guarded by anti-poaching units, and plans are underway to capture rhinos and bring them into large, semi-natural breeding facilities in an attempt to increase population numbers. Sumatran rhinos were declared extinct in the wild in Malaysia in 2015.
Javan rhinos, numbering no more than 67 animals, are found only in Indonesia’s Ujung Kulon National Park, where they are heavily protected. Ujung Kulon is situated just south of the site of Krakatoa, the volcano that cataclysmically devastated the region in 1883. “Anak Krakatau,” or Son of Krakatoa, is active a short ways away from the original volcano. Another eruption could devastate this species’ tiny population. The last Javan rhino in Vietnam was found shot with its horn hacked off in 2010.