In pre-historical times the White Rhino would have roamed widely throughout the African savanna. Two widely separated subspecies occurred: one in northern Central Africa and the other in southern Africa. It has been argued that the length of time of separation, coupled with morphological differences, justifies their recognition as two distinct species, but this is disputed.
The White Rhino is now the most numerous of all living rhino species, but the fortunes of the two subspecies could not be more different. While the Northern White Rhino is now functionally extinct, the Southern White Rhino, in the 1960s reduced by hunting, land-use changes and poaching to a tiny population in what is now south Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province, has grown to 18,067 despite recent poaching pressure. This represents one of the greatest conservation triumphs of all time.
This representation of the historical distribution of the White Rhino is derived from two sources: Circa 1500 from “New maps representing the historical and recent distribution of the African species of rhinoceros: Diceros bicornis, Ceratotherium simum and Ceratotherium cottoni, by Kees Rookmaker and Pierre-Olivier Antoine, published in Pachyderm No. 52 July–December 2012; and Circa 1700 from “Status Survey and Consolidated Action Plan: African Rhino”, compiled by Richard Emslie and Martin Brookes, published in 1999 by the IUCN/SSC AfRSG.
Extant naturally occurring populations