There are five species of Rhino in the world today. Three of the five are critically endangered, and all five continue to face an uncertain future due to human encroachment, poaching and habitat loss.
General Rhino Facts
All rhinoceros are herbivores - that is, they eat only plant material. Some primarily eat grass (grazers), some eat mostly leaves and branches (browsers) while others feed on a mixture of both.
Rhinoceros belong to the perissodactyl family of 'ungulates' (hoofed animals) indicating that they are large-hoofed animals with odd numbers of 'toes' (the rhinoceros has three per foot).
The closest relative to the rhinoceros is the horse, ass and tapir.
Rhinoceros have very poor eyesight, relying instead on acute senses of smell and hearing. Poachers sneak-up on their victims by remaining down-wind and extremely quiet.
In general, rhinoceros live for about 30-40 years in the wild and up to 50 years in captivity.
Rhinoceros give birth to a single calf after a gestation of between 15 and 16 months. The interval between calves is generally two to three years. Rhinos become sexually mature anywhere between five and seven years.
Wallowing in mud is a favourite pastime of all five rhinoceros species. It is a great way for them to cool down in the heat of the day and it also protects their skin from the sun and from biting insects.
Rhinoceros are very agile animals. They may look slow and cumbersome - but don't be fooled!! Rhinos can run at speeds of 40-50km/hr and can do a 180 degree spin in a single jump.
Why Are Rhinos Under Threat?
Around the world, rhinoceroses are poached for their horns which, despite being made simply of hair-like keratin, is highly valued for a variety of ancient medicines and also thought to be an aphrodesiac. Weight for weight people will pay the price of gold for rhino horn on the black market. The trade is highly prolific, despite being highly illegal.
Expanding populations, particularly in Asia, mean that associated industries such as logging and agricultural clearing have had a devastating effect on the natural rainforest habitat for many species. Degradation of the environment also has an impact.
As the available habitat disappears, rhino (or any species) become 'trapped' in small pockets of natural habitat which are isolated from each other. Population fragmentation results in genetic issues and demographic problems (eg: too many males in one population, too few in another). When combined with ruthless poaching, the species is highly vulnerable to extinction.
Greater One Horned Rhino
Greater One Horned Rhinos are a conservation success story, with as many as 2,800 individuals today compared to 200 in the 1990's... Read more >>
Javan Rhinos are the rarest rhino in the world, with less than 50 thought to be remaining in one national park in Indonesia... Read more >>
Sumatran Rhinos are considered the most highly endangered of the Asian Rhino species, due to high fragmentation of their population... Read more >>