Rhinos are animals best known for their large size and horn/s. There are five living species of rhinoceros and two of these are native to Africa and three are found in Southern Asia. Each species has varying characteristics, for example some have 2 horns and some have one, but the general appearance of these animals is quite similar. Rhinos are gray in color and can reach more than 1 metric ton in weight. Of the five species, three are listed as critically endangered (black rhinoceros, Sumatran rhinoceros and Javan rhinoceros), one is listed as vulnerable (Indian rhinoceros) and one is near threatened (white rhinoceros). Let’s find out why these animals as listed as endangered and what is being done to conserve these species.
Why are rhinos endangered?
The number of cause of the dramatic decline in the population of the five species of rhinoceros is hunting. Rhinos have long been hunted for their horns, which are used for traditional medicine or ornamental purposes. Even though hunting and trading of this species is banned in most countries the black market for rhino horn is still strong. The horns are particularly sought after in Chinese medicine because they are believed to have healing properties. It is estimated that Asian rhinoceros horn can be worth as much as $30,000 per kilogram on the black market!
Other factors that threaten rhinos include habitat loss (due to deforestation) and lack of genetic diversity (due to the smaller populations inbreeding may occur).
The main work being done in protecting the rhinoceros involves setting up wildlife parks and educating the local people about the plight of these species. Captive breeding programs may also be important for ensuring genetic diversity in smaller populations. Conservationists are also working to improve and/or protect rhino habitats.