Thursday, December 23, 2010

Black Rhinoceros

There are currently five extant species of Rhinoceros in the world. White Rhinoceros and Black Rhinoceros are recognized as African Rhinos while Indian Rhinoceros (or Greater One-horned Rhinoceros), Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros are the Asian Rhinos. Among them, Black, Javan and Sumatran Rhinos are categorised as critically endangered according to the IUCN Redlist. Javan Rhino is particularly rare, maybe one of the rarest animals in the world, that less than a hundred is left on the planet. There are two disjunct populations of them in which 28-56 individuals are estimated in Ujung Kulon National Park, Java, Indonesia and no more than 8 individuals in Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam (WWF, 2010).

The species shown here is Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) taken in Masai Mara national park, Kenya in 2009. The reserve together with the neighbouring Serengeti national park form one of the major unfenced areas for the Rhinoceros to live in. A recent study conducted a census by aerial reconnaissance surveys and estimated that there are about 461 individuals in these two nature reserves (Metzger et al., 2007). As a whole, IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group (2008) estimated that there are a total of 4180 wild individuals in 2007 and the population trend is kept increasing.

Black Rhinoceros has once been very abundant but its number dropped drastically between 1970 and 1992 by 96% due to illegal hunting (WWF, 2010)! Demands from Middle East for ornamental uses and Asian countries for traditional medicines are the major threats to the species (that is also why the Asian Rhinos are particularly endangered). Warfare among the African countries makes its conservation difficult too.

Black Rhinoceros are indeed very susceptible to poaching as they are not only huge, but also due to their preference on habitats. They mainly inhabit and forage in grasslands and savannas which normally do not hide themselves in forests or other kind of shelters. They sometimes form group of up to 12 individuals which makes them easy to be killed off too.

I was lucky enough to see a mother with her calf wandering in the savanna in Masai Mara national park. Though I was so excited of seeing these rare magnificent animals in the wild, I was so worried of their fate in the meantime as illegal poaching is still serious in Africa.

"How are they?" I am thinking.

Good luck!

IUCN SSC African Rhino Specialist Group. 2008. Diceros bicornis. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <>. Downloaded on 23 December 2010.
Metzger, K.L., A.R.E. Sinclair, K.L.I. Campbell, R. Hilborn, J.G.C. Hopcraft, S.A.R. Mduma and R.M. Reich. 2007. Using historical data to establish baselines for conservation: The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) of the Serengeti as a case study. Biological Conservation 139: 358-374.
WWF. 2010. Rhinoceros. Available at <> Accessed on 23rd December 2010.

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