Ceratotherium simum

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.

The Northern White Rhino C. s. cottoni once ranged over parts of north-western Uganda, south-western Sudan, the eastern part of Central African Republic, north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and possibly as far as Lake Chad in the west.
Historically, the Southern White Rhino C. s. simum, which is currently the most numerous of the living rhinos, roamed widely throughout the bushveld areas of northern and northeastern South Africa, into Swaziland and Mozambique, and across much of Botswana into central Namibia.
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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.

Due to the relentless pressure of poaching the Northern White Rhino C. s. cottonii is probably now extinct in the wild. There was a sighting in Garamba National Park in northern DRC in 2011, but none since. Two females from a Polish Zoo are the only survivors of the subspecies. They now live within the Ol Pajeta reserve in Kenya which has not been within the Northern White Rhino’s distribution range for more than 200 years.
The Southern White Rhino C. s. simum, was also histircally ravaged by poaching and hunting. At its lowest ebb fewer than 100 remained. The 1960s saw Operation Rhino, an intervention that not only saved the subspecies but initiated its reintroduction into Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Swaziland and other parts of South Africa. Southern White Rhinos have also been tranlocated to Uganda (historically part of the Northern White Rhino’s range) and to Kenya (outside the White Rhino’s historical range).
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Extant naturally occurring populations
Introduced/re-introduced populations
Extinct populations