The Rhinoceros’s Battle for Survival


There is no more endangered animal in the world than the Javan Rhinoceros. There are two separate populations that are currently surviving, and their total numbers are around sixty. There are five different types of rhinoceros with all of the breeds at sometimes struggling to maintain their numbers. Regardless of the breed the rhino is a big bulky animal with all the species capable of weighing more than a tone in weight. They are herbivores feeding from the savanna and other ecosystems they roam around in. The animals are protected by thick folds of leathery skin but of course they most distinguishable feature is their horn.

The very large White Rhinoceros

Some breeds, such as the African White, the African Black and the Sumatran have two horns while the Indian and the Javan have just the single horn. Of the five species the Javan, the Sumatran and the Black are all listed as critically endangered species. The White rhinoceros is the most populated species. They roam around Africa with their being both southern and northern populations. The southern species has over 20,000 animals in the wild while the northern species is struggling with only 3 animals known to be alive in captivity. The white rhino is not white, but it is immense in size with males weighing up to 5000 pounds.

Although not as big as the White, the Black Rhinos can still weigh as heavy as 4000 pounds. In the late 1960s their population was at a healthy 70,000 but then declined drastically to hit a worryingly low figure of 2400 in 1995. Since then conservation measures has resulted in the numbers recovering to nearly 5,000 by the end of 2010. However, although this is encouraging the numbers are 90% lower than three decades ago.

The Indian rhinoceros can weigh as heavy as 4000 pounds and on average are the second largest behind the African White. They used to inhabit the entire northern part of the Indian sub-continent but today they are located in three main areas. Southern Nepal, Northern Bengal and parts of the Brahmaputra Valley.

The small and hairy Sumatran rhinoceros

The numbers in the wild are estimated to be around 3500. The largest population of 2500 is found in the Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in India. This World Heritage site also contains tigers, elephants and water buffalos among its collection of animals.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest species and the average male weighing in at 2,200 pounds. It has long hair and it has a short stubby body. The numbers have declined recently and in 2011 there were only 216 that could be located in the wild. The main reasons why the future of all the rhinoceros appears to be in danger is a combination of their natural habitat disappearing and poachers killing the animals for their prized horns.

Of all of the tusks that are hunted for none have greater value than rhinoceros’ horn. The value is worth 100,000 US dollar per kg which makes it more valuable than gold. It is made up of Keratin which is matted hair. When it is ground down it is used in medicines as an aphrodisiac and a cure to hangovers, and other poisons. The most important market is in Vietnam and it was discovered that a lot of the illegal poaching in Africa has been aimed at the Vietnamese markets. Despite the international trade of the horn being illegal since 1977 game wardens are still fighting every day to come to terms with the poachers.

Many poachers have been shot as they have attempted to kill the rhinoceros. It would appear that many others will suffer a similar fate if the authorities are going to become successful in restoring the animal’s numbers and in the act guaranteeing its survival in the future.