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White Rhino

Overview

  • Status
    Near Threatened
  • Population
    20,170
  • Scientific Name
    Ceratotherium simum
  • Height
    5-6 feet
  • Weight
    3,080-7,920 pounds
  • Habitats
    Tropical and Subtropical Grasslands, Savannas and Shrublands

White rhinos are the second largest land mammal and their name comes from the Afrikaan’s, a West Germanic language, word “weit” which means wide and refers to the animal’s muzzle. Also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, white rhinos have a square upper lip with almost no hair. The majority (98.8%) of white rhinos occur in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. Northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos are genetically distinct subspecies and are found in two different regions in Africa. Southern white rhinos were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, but in 1895 a small population of less than 100 individuals was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. After more than a century of protection and management, they are now classified as Near Threatened and about 20,000 animals exist in protected areas and private game reserves. They are the only rhinos that are not endangered.

White rhinos have complex social structures. Groups of sometimes 14 rhinos may form, notably females with calves. Adult males defend territories of roughly one square mile, which they mark with vigorously scraped dung piles. The home range for adult females can be more than seven times larger, depending on habitat quality and population density. Breeding females are prevented from leaving a dominant male’s territory, which is marked and patrolled by its owner on a regular basis. Males competing for a female may engage in serious conflict, using their horns and massive size to inflict wounds.

Hope for Rhinos

As conservationists, we have learned what it takes to help rhinos recover from the very edge of extinction.The formula is quite simple: protect rhinos where they exist, incentivize community stewardship of rhino populations, manage populations for maximum growth, establish new populations in suitable locations for maximum protection and population growth. This formula is achievable, but it does require political will and resources to see the plan through.

Sumatran rhino

Why They Matter

  • In almost all rhino conservation areas, there are other valuable plants and animals. The protection of rhinos helps protect other species. Rhinos contribute to economic growth and sustainable development through the tourism industry, which creates job opportunities and provides tangible benefits to local communities living alongside rhinos.

Threats

  • Population 20,170
  • Extinction Risk Near Threatened
    1. EX
      Extinct

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN
      Endangered

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU
      Vulnerable

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

White Rhino

Habitat Loss

White rhinos lose their habitat due to agriculture and settlements.

Poaching

Historically, uncontrolled hunting in the colonial era caused the major decline of white rhinos. Today, poaching for their horn is the main threat. The white rhino is particularly vulnerable to poaching because it is relatively unaggressive and lives in herds.

“White rhinos are a spectacular conservation success story, but the current poaching crisis could reverse all of our conservation gains."

 

Matthew Lewis African Species Expert

What WWF Is Doing

White Rhino

Using radio telemetry to monitor white rhinos.

Monitoring and Protection

To monitor and protect white rhinos WWF focuses on better-integrated intelligence gathering networks on rhino poaching and trade, more antipoaching patrols and better equipped conservation law enforcement officers. WWF is setting up an Africa-wide rhino database using rhino horn DNA analysis (RhoDIS), which contributes to forensic investigations at the scene of the crime and for court evidence to greatly strengthen prosecution cases. In South Africa and Kenya, it has been circulated into law as legal evidence in courts and rhino management. This work is done with institutions like the University of Pretoria Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. We also support a South African white rhino web-based data system.

Strengthening Local and International Law Enforcement

Rhinos

WWF supports accredited training in environmental and crime courses, some of which have been adopted by South Africa Wildlife College. Special prosecutors have been appointed in countries like Kenya and South Africa to prosecute rhino crimes in a bid to deal with the mounting arrests and bring criminals to face swift justice with commensurate penalties. TRAFFIC, the world’s largest wildlife trade monitoring network, has played a vital role in bilateral law enforcement efforts between South Africa and Vietnam. This has gone hand-in-hand with written commitments to strengthen border and ports monitoring as well as information sharing in order to disrupt the illegal trade chain activities and bring the perpetrators to justice for their crimes against rhinos.

Effective Public-Private Partnerships

The Lowveld Rhino Trust , a Zimbabwean-registered trust supported by a consortium of donors including WWF, was created in 2008. This trust helped to form large conservancies through technical and funding support. The Lowveld, South Africa conservancies are now home to a majority of the country’s rhinos—365 black rhinos and 175 white rhinos.

Experts

Related Species

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