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There are currently five species of rhinos in the world: white rhino, greater one-horned rhino, black rhino, Sumatran rhino, and Javan rhino.
Two rhino species live in Africa (white rhino and black rhino) and three live in Asia (greater one-horned rhino, Sumatran rhino, and Javan rhino). Fun fact: Rhinos once lived in Europe and early Europeans depicted rhinos in cave paintings.
Rhinos are herbivores, which means they eat plants. A rhino’s habitat influences which plants they eat. White rhinos graze on grass, while black rhinos eat succulent plants and leaves. Sumatran rhinos eat a variety of available plants, and Javan rhinos prefer moist plants found in lowlands with plenty of water. Greater one-horned rhinos graze on grasses and eat plants close to water.
No, rhino horns are made of keratin, which is a fibrous protein that’s also found in hair, fingernails, scales, and other parts of vertebrate animals. Elephant tusks are ivory, which is made of dentine, a calcified body tissue like in human teeth.
Male rhinos, especially the African species, use their horns as a show of strength and to express dominance. In addition, rhinos can use their horns to dig for food and to defend themselves. Interesting to know: Male rhinos sometimes use their horns to move their dung into a pile, known as a midden, that acts as a territorial marker.
Rhinos can be protective, but they are rarely aggressive if unprovoked. Rhinos prefer to roam unhindered and undisturbed. However, if they perceive a threat, they may defend themselves by charging. Female rhinos are often very protective of their calves. Avoiding human-wildlife conflict is a key to ensuring that animals and people can thrive together.
A young rhino is called a calf. Often calves will stay with their mother until between two and five years old, after which they are adults. An adult female is known as a cow, while a male is a bull. Rhinos often live to between 35 and 50 years. Fun fact: A group of rhinos is called a “crash.”
The weight of a rhino calf varies by species, but most are between 75 and 140 pounds (35 to 65 kilograms) when they are born. Those calves then turn into some of the largest animals in the world. Depending on the species, a male rhino grows to around 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) and a female to around 3,100 pounds (1,400 kilograms), and up to nearly 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall.
When rhino calves are small, they are vulnerable to predators like crocodiles, big cats, and wild dogs. Adult rhinos have very few wild predators, but Nile crocodiles will sometimes try to attack rhinos while they are drinking. Humans are the most dangerous predator for rhinos, with poaching and habitat destruction endangering rhino populations. Interesting to know: Oxpecker birds often perch on the backs of rhinos to eat parasitic insects that live in the rhino’s thick skin. These birds let out a loud cry if they spot potential danger, which also lets the rhino know that danger could be nearby.
Yes, rhinos are endangered. The main threats to rhinos are poaching and habitat loss. Some people falsely believe that rhino horns have medicinal powers to cure different ailments. This belief drives an illegal market for rhino horns, which in turn leads to poaching of the animals. Habitat loss is another major factor as rhinos require large spaces and safe corridors for feeding and roaming. Learn more about how IFAW is stopping wildlife crime to ensure that wild animals have the protection they need from the illegal market forces that threaten their survival.
Today, fewer than 30,000 rhinos live in the wild (compared to around 500,000 in 1900).
White rhino: Near threatened, around 18,000 remaining. A sub-species, the northern white rhino, has only 2 remaining, both of which are female (the last male died in 2018).
Greater one-horned rhino: Vulnerable, around 3,500 remaining.
Black rhino: Critically endangered, around 5,400 remaining.
Sumatran rhino: Critically endangered, fewer than 100 remaining.
Javan rhino: Critically endangered, fewer than 80 remaining.
IFAW works with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to rescue and rehabilitate rhino calves near Kaziranga National Park. Through our partnership with WTI and the Assam Forest Reserve, we've been able to restore Manas National Park back into a landscape where rhinos and other animals can thrive.
We have a dedicated team of rangers working to protect rhinos and other wildlife on the border between Zambia and Malawi, an area that is rampant with poaching. IFAW's Team Lioness, one of the first all-women ranger teams in Kenya, also works to save rhinos from poachers and promotes coexistence between communities and wildlife.
At a policy and advocacy level, our teams around the world are reducing demand for rhino horn product and ensuring that markets remain closed, helping to reduce incidents of poaching and shut down cybercrime.
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