At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia. This fell to 70,000 by 1970 and further to just 29,000 in the wild today.
Despite this bleak picture, and the continuing threat of poaching for their valuable horns, global rhino population figures have been increasing in recent years.
Large-scale poaching of the now critically endangered black rhino resulted in a dramatic 96% decline from 65,000 individuals in 1970 to just 2,300 in 1993. Thanks to the persistent efforts of conservation programmes across Africa black rhino numbers have risen since the early 1990s to a current population of 5,055.
The overwhelming rhino conservation success story is that of the southern white rhino. With numbers as low as 50 left in the wild in the early 1900s, this subspecies of rhino has now increased to over 20,000 and has become the most populous of all the rhino species. The population is continuing to increase every year, however there are concerns that the unprecedented rise in rhino poaching since 2008 may bring this species back into decline if the poaching is not reduced.
In Asia the populations of Sumatran and Javan rhinos are extremely low and both species are listed as critically endangered. There are fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild, and efforts are now being invested in captive breeding in an attempt to boost the population.
The Javan story is sadly even more shocking with an estimated 35 to 45 individuals left in a single population in Ujung Kulon National Park. Local conservationists, supported by Save the Rhino, are working hard to increase the habitat for this species since it is believed that the current habitat cannot support any more rhinos, and Rhino Protection Units have been set up to monitor and protect both the remaining Javan and Sumatran rhinos.
White rhino population figures
Ceratotherium simum simum
Black rhino population figures
Diceros bicornis michaeli
Diceros bicornis bicornis
Asian rhino population figures
Population figures are according to numbers published 31 December by the IUCN for African rhino species and results of a 2012 / 2013 census for Asian rhino populations.
- https://www.savetherhino.org, Save the Rhino Foundation. Retrieved 10 February 2013.