rhinos are endangered
The majority of the five rhino species left in the world are 'critically endangered': the black rhinoceros of eastern and southern Africa, and the Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros of Indonesia. The greater one-horned rhinoceros of India and Nepal is classified as 'vulnerable' and the white rhinoceros of southern Africa are 'near threatened.' Several subspecies have been declared extinct in the last decade or so - the most recent being the western black rhinoceros. There are only a handful of Northern white rhinoceros (a subspecies of white rhinoceros) left anywhere in the world and it is more than likely they are extinct in the wild. Other species have been declared extinct in certain areas of their historic range - for example, while ~40 Javan rhinoceros still live on the island of Java, they were officially declared extinct in Vietnam. The plight of rhinoceros has increasingly worsened - in 1900, there were over 1 million rhinoceros in the world; in 1970, there were only ~70,000 left; and today, fewer than 29,000 rhinos survive in the wild.
rhinos are being killed
While some rhinoceros populations are threatened by habitat loss and conversion, human encroachment, climate change, and political conflict, most rhinoceros' deaths are a result of poaching - illegal killing - for their horns. Most of the demand for rhino horn is a result of its use in traditional medicine in Asian countries. Despite rhino horn having no proven medical benefits, the demand for it has soared in recent years. It does not cure headaches, stomach aches, erectile dysfunction, cancer, hangovers or any other medical condition; it is not a detoxification agent; it is not an aphrodisiac. Rhino horn is made out of a protein called keratin - the same material from which human hair and fingernails are made. Does eating your fingernails make a headache go away? Well, neither does rhino horn powder in your tea.
rhinos are important
Rhinoceros are the second largest terrestrial mammal on earth. Because of their size, they have a large impact on the ecosystem: their browsing and grazing allows other species access to certain species of grasses and plants; their mud wallows provide areas for other animals to bathe and drink; and their dung is an important fertilizer and food source for many organisms. Additionally, the protection of rhinoceros means safeguarding other species that share the same habitats. Rhinoceros are one of the 'Big Five' - lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo - and are important facets of African tourism, which brings money into national parks and local communities through employment and commerce in general.
Rhinos are tough
Humans are the only reason rhinoceros populations are declining. Whether it is the development of wild forests or savannahs, political conflict or poaching, rhinoceros are harmed or killed because of people. A full-grown adult rhinoceros has no natural predator - their size, horn and demeanor are enough to keep lions, leopards and hyenas at bay. Despite the recent increase in poaching, historical records show that rhinoceros are able to recover from low population numbers. In the 1990s, there were less than 2,500 black rhinoceros in Africa and while still critically endangered at present, there are now over 5,000. Similarly, white rhinoceros populations were extremely low at the turn of the century and have rebounded to about 20,000. Learning from the past, conservationists are confident that by drawing attention to the poaching of endangered species with well-planned measures as well as reducing the demand for rhino horn and other exotic animal parts, rhinoceros will be able to recover from the recent decline.