Historically, today’s five surviving rhino species once roamed across much of Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and southern China. As recently as 1800, they could probably have been counted in their hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Today, their range and numbers have been greatly reduced. Estimates now place the global population at fewer than 25,000, down from a recent high of around 30,000. This drastic drop results from the ongoing poaching crisis with its epicenter in South Africa.
Photo credit: Robin Moore
Southern White Rhinos at Solio
Updated date:May 2, 2022
THE RHINO COUNTRIES
The following map outlines the countries in Africa and Asia where rhinos currently live, including their population estimates and trends. Further maps detail the historical and current distribution for each species. To view these, click on the individual species names above.
Global rhino population End 2017 White Rhino – 18,067. Trend ↓
Black Rhino – 5,495. Trend ↑
Indian Rhino – 3,588. Trend ↑
Javan Rhino – 68. Trend ↑
Sumatran Rhino – 78. Trend ↑
Total all species – 27,297 ↓
Although the global population of rhinos decreased by some 1,666 from an estimated 28,963 at the end of 2015, this is almost entirely due to the major decline in White Rhino numbers in South Africa. For the rest of the world there has been an encouraging upward trend (or at least a stable situation) for all populations of all species. Although poaching levels in South Africa have leveled and have even dropped in recent years, the situation remains very serious. Notwithstanding the losses in South Africa and elsewhere due to poaching, when compared with the global total of 20,800 for all rhinos in 2008, there has been an overall population growth of some 8,160 over the intervening years, an increase of just under 40 per cent.
SOUTH AFRICA End 2017 Total rhino population – 17,671. Trend ↓
White Rhino population – 15,625. Trend ↓
Black Rhino population – 2,046. Trend ↑
Although by 2012, the current poaching crisis was well under way, South Africa’s White Rhinos continued to increase, but the rate of killing, which reached a combined high of some four rhinos a day in 2014, soon took its toll and by the following year numbers were in decline. The country’s flagship conservation area, the Kruger National Park, was badly ravaged by poaching, and to some extent by drought: the total number of White Rhinos in the park in 2010 was some 10,621, but by the end of 2016 the population had fallen to between 6,649 and 7,830 individuals. A feature of rhino conservation in South Africa is the large numbers of Black and particularly White Rhino held by private owners. Some 330 private game reserves sprawl across nearly 8,000 square miles (more than two million hectares), collectively making up an area equal to the size of Kruger National Park. They are home to some 6,300 rhinos or 35 per cent of the national population.
NAMIBIA End 2017 Total rhino population – 2,832. Trend ↑
White Rhino population – 975. Trend ↑
Black Rhino population – 1,857. Trend ↑
Namibia is the last remaining stronghold of the Southern Black Rhino D. b. bicornis that historically ranged across much of southern Africa. Possibly a few remain in southern Angola. Prior to 2013 poaching was minimal but from 2014 through to 2017 there was an upsurge of killing and the country lost some 242 rhinos (White and Black) during this period. That the country did not lose more of its rhinos was possibly due its low and widely dispersed human population and the strong involvement or communities in wildlife conservation.
BOTSWANA End 2017 Total rhino population – 502. Trend ↑
White Rhino population – 452. Trend ↑
Black Rhino population – 50. Trend ↑
By the 1980s, Botswana had experienced a complete collapse of both its Black and White Rhino populations. By 1992 fewer than 19 White Rhino remained in the wild, while the black rhino was classified ‘Locally Extinct’. Since the early 2000s, however, collaboration between South Africa and Botswana, together with commitment from safari companies has seen a vigorous and successful translocation program and both species are now beginning to flourish once more.
ESWATINI (SWAZILAND) End 2017 Total rhino population – 87. Trend ↓ White Rhino population – 66. Trend ↓ Black Rhino population – 21. Trend ↑ Although eSwatini is a country small enough to fit comfortably within the boundaries of the Kruger National Park and only has a small rhino population it punches well above its weight in matters of wildlife conservation. The tiny kingdom’s wildlife was devastated by hunting and poaching in the 1960s, but has since gone about restocking its reserves with vigor. Eswatini also has strong wildlife laws which are stringently applied and is a determined protagonist of a legal trade in rhino horn.
Zimbabwe End 2017 Total rhino population – 887. Trend ↑ White Rhino population – 367. Trend ↑ Black Rhino population – 520. Trend ↑ Zimbabwe’s rhinos were decimated from the mid 1980s through to 1993 when the country lost more than 1,100 rhinos to poachers. After some respite the country was again hit from 2006 and in 2008 alone 164 rhinos were massacred. Since then, however, the situation has stabilized and Zimbabwe’s rhinos are once again on the rise.
ZAMBIA End 2017 Total rhino population – 62. Trend ↑ White Rhino population – 14. Trend ↑ Black Rhino population – 48. Trend ↑ In the 1960s Zambia was a stronghold of the Black Rhino with a population of some 12,000 but, with poaching as the primary cause, and by 1995 the species was assumed to have been locally exterminated. In 2003, under the guidance of the of the African Rhino Specialist Group and financial support from the Frankfurt Zoological Society a rhino reintroduction program began. Currently Black Rhinos numbers have clawed their way back to 48. Although out of their historical range, Southern White Rhinos were introduced in 1964 but after initial success they had fallen to poachers by 1986. A second attempt began in 1994 but by 2008 only one male remained. Additional White Rhinos were subsequently translocated from South Africa and this process has been more successful.
MOZAMBIQUE End 2017 Total rhino population – 30. Trend ↓ White Rhino population – 29. Trend → Black Rhino population – 1. Trend ↓ Mozambique’s rhinos have been heavily depleted over the past decade or so and before that civil war exacted a devastating toll on the country’s wildlife as a whole. For the moment at least the situation is showing some signs of stabilizing. Mozambique has also played a pivotal role in south Africa’s poaching crisis. Most of the rhinos killed in South Africa are poached in Kruger National Park, which shares a 356 kilometer extremely porous border with Mozambique. The majority of the poaching “footsoldiers” are drawn from Mozambique which is ranked as the second poorest country in the world. Unsurprisingly, the country also suffers from a high rate of corruption and the situation isn’t helped by poaching being regarded as little more than a misdemeanour in law.
MALAWI End 2017 Total rhino population – 28. Trend UP ↑ Black Rhino population – 28. Trend ↑ In the early 1980s there were still about 12-15 Black Rhinos in Malawi’s conservation areas. By 1990, however, these had all been lost to cross-border poaching from Zambia and Mozambique. In 1993 a reintroduction program began when a pair of South-central Black Rhinos Diceros bicornis minor was translocated to Liwonde National Park. Further translocations took place in Liwonde, and then in 2003 Black Rhinos from South Africa were moved to Majete Wildlife Reserve in southwestern Malawi, an area devastated in the 1970s and 80s by human encroachment and poaching. From this modest rebirth of Malawi’s rhinos the population has grown modestly but steadily to 28.
TANZANIA End 2017 Total rhino population – 160. Trend ↑ Black Rhino population – 160. Trend ↑ The Eastern Black Rhino Diceros bicornis michaeli was once abundant in the Serengeti system. Sadly, in common with almost all rhino range states, poaching and other human activities devastated the region’s rhinos and in 2013 only 123 remained. In the Ngorongoro Crater there were 108 rhinos in1968 but these had dwindled to no more than 25 by 1977. Reintroduction programs were started in the 1990s and by 2018 Ngorongoro’s rhinos had recovered to more than 50. Currently Tanzania’s Eastern Black Rhinos number 155, hwile there is also a small population of five South-central Black Rhinos D. b. minor in the southern part of the country.
KENYA End 2017 Total rhino population – 1,258. Trend ↑ White Rhino population – 513. Trend ↑ Black Rhino population – 745. Trend ↑ In 1970 Kenya was home to about 20,000 Eastern Black Rhinos Diceros bicornis minor but the scourge of poaching caused the population to crash to fewer than 280 individuals in the 1980s. Even these remaining rhinos were at risk because their numbers were so low and they were so spread out that successful breeding was seriously hampered. Among the strategies used to overcome the problem was the establishments of well guarded scanctuaries on private land. The success of these efforts is borne out by the recovery of Kenya’s rhino numbers to well over the 1,200 mark, making the country home to the third highest rhino population in Africa after South Africa and Namibia.
UGANDA End 2017 Total rhino population – 22. Trend ↑ Historically there were thriving populations of both the Eastern Black Rhino Diceros bicornis michaeli and the Northern White Rhino Ceratotherium simum cottoni in Uganda, but by the 1960s the populations had crashed to about 400 and 300 respectively. The situation became steadily worse and in the 1979 Liberation War saw the virtual extinction of the country’s white Rhinos – the last one was seen in 1982. The last Black Rhino was seen in 1983. In 2005 the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established and four Southern White Rhinos Ceratotherium simum simum were moved there from Kenya while another two were donated by Disney Animal Kingdom in the United States. From these few, the population has grown to 22 and it is hoped that Black Rhinos will also soon be part of Uganda’s wildlife mix once more.
RWANDA End 2017 Total rhino population – 19. Trend ↑ Black Rhino population – 19. Trend ↑ In 2017, 19 Eastern Black Rhinos Diceros bicornis michaeli from South Africa were relocated to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. In the1970s more than 50 Black Rhinos lived in Rwanda but they were heavily poached and the last sighting was in 2007. In June 2019 a further five Eastern Black Rhinos will arrive in Rwanda from the Dvur Kratove Safari Park in the Chech Republic.
COTE D’VOIRE End 2017 Total rhino population – 1. Trend → White Rhino population – 1. Trend → Although Cote D’Ivoire lies outside the historical range of the White Rhino, a small population of five Southern White Rhino Ceratotherium simum simum was established in a park in 1991. By 1995, the population had been reduced to four, and now only one remains. In May 2017 the sole survivor was moved to a place of safety in the country.
SENEGAL End 2017 Total rhino population – 3. Trend → White Rhino population – 3. Trend → A small population of Southern White Rhino Ceratotherium simum simum was introduced into Sengal in the early 2000s of which three remain. Senegal is outside of the historical range of the species.
INDIA End 2017 Total rhino population – 2,939. Trend ↑ Indian Rhino population – 2,939. Trend ↑ The Indian Rhino once roamed in substantial numbers from Pakistan to the Indo-Burmese border, and in parts of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. But by the beginning of the 20th century only remnants remained in northern India and Nepal. After India gained independence in 1947 strict conservation laws were introduced and over the intervening decades Indian Rhino numbers have climbed back to the 3,000 mark. Despite this significant conservation success story the species is still threatened by poaching, habitat loss and the risk of having more than 85 per cent of the total poulation in a single conservation area in Assam. In 2005 the Indian Rhino Vission 2020 program was launched to address these issues and to establish rhino populations totalling 3,000 individuals across seven protected areas in Assam. The country seems to be on target to achieve this target.
NEPAL End 2017 Total rhino population – 649. Trend → Indian Rhino population – 649. Trend → In 1950 the Indian Rhino population in Nepal’s Chitwan Valley numbered around 1,000 individuals. Access at the time was restricted to the country’s Rama rulers, while rampant malaria further protected the region from human settlement. The Rama regime ended in that year, however, and malaria was progressively eradicated leading to clearance of wildlife habitat for human settlements, agriculture and urbanization. Wildlife populations plummeted and in less than two decades the rhino population fell to fewer than 100. The governemnt responded by establishing the “Gainda Gasti”armed Rhino Patrol Unit and consolodated the remaining rhino habitats into the Chitwan National Park in 1973. The declining rhino population began to increase gradually and despite setbacks, notably heavy poaching during the Maoist Insurgency from 1996 to 2006, numbers have reached current levels. In recent years Nepal has achieved impressive success against poaching and a number years have seen no poaching losses at all. Notwithstanding, the growth in rhino numbers has been inhibited by unexplained deaths of rhinos seemingly from natural causes: between 2004 and 2014 81 rhinos died while from 2015 to 2017 60 such deaths were recorded, more than 20 per year.
INDONESIA End 2017 Total rhino population – 146. Trend ↑ Javan Rhino population – 68. Trend UP ↑ Sumatran Rhino population – 78. Trend ↑ Indonesia is the last remaining refuge of Javan and Sumatran Rhinos. Once the most widespread of the Asian rhinos, the Javan Rhino has been reduced to the present remnant population of Rhinoceros sondaicus sondaicus which is restricted to one locality at the western tip of the Indonesian island of Java. Its dubious status as quite probably the rarest large mammal on earth is attributable to loss of habitat, the ravages of war, tropht hunting and poaching for their horns. Although intense protection in recent years has seen the the population stabilize and increase slightly their survival remains tenuous as they are susceptable to disease, inbreeding depression as a result of the loss of genetic diversity, and vlocanic activity – their current sanctuary lies in one of the most seismically active regions in the world. Also once numerous and widespread, the smallest of the five living rhino species, the Sumatran Rhino, has fared no better. The remnants of the Western Sumatran Rhino Dicerorhinus sumatrensis sumatrensis now number no more than 75 which are confined to a few sanctuaries on the Indonesian island of Sumatra; and three survivors of the Eastern Sumatran Rhino D. s. harrisoni in Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo. Their demise is attributable to much the same causes as for the Javan Rhino.
MALAYSIA End 2017 There are currently no Sumatran rhinos living in the wild on the Malaysian Peninsula or Sabah, the Malaysian province of the island of Borneo. The Javan Rhino was declared extinct in Malaysia in 2017.
BHUTAN Bhutan is a Rhino Range State and is (together with India, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia) a signatory to the the Bandar Lampung Declaration, as common action plan was agreed today with the aim of increasing the populations of Asian Rhino species by at least 3% annually by 2020. Bhutan, however, has no permanent rhino population, despite joint efforts between the country and India.