Rhinoceroses are the most endangered of the Big Five but are relatively easy to see in the right places. There are several species and sub-species of Rhino living in East and Southern Africa, sometimes in the same reserves. These include the Black Rhino, and the Square-Lipped or White Rhino. Rhinos can be seen on safari in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia. You are not likely to see rhino’s in Zambia or Botswana (where a handful of have been relocated). If you want to see more rhino in one place than you thought possible head to the Lewa Widlife Conservancy or the Solio Conservancy in Kenya or head to the nearby Ol Pejeta Conservancy to see some the last Northern White Rhino in the world. These conservancies are doing incredible and essential rhino conservation work and learning about their efforts will be an integral part of your stay.
Rhino tracking is a fun way to get up close and personal with these impressive animals and offers a great opportunity to learn about the challenges facing this threatened species. Rhino tracking is available in Namibia at Desert Rhino Camp, and in South Africa at the Amakhala, Phinda and Kwandwe reserves among others. At Kwandwe and Phinda you can also participate in the darting and notching of a rhino. Under the supervision of experts, a rhino is darted in order to plant a microchip into the horn and perform ear-notching for future identification – an essential task to ensure the preservation of this endangered species. In India you can see the one-horned rhino in Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
At the end of the twentieth century there were approximately 500,000 rhinos across Asia and Africa but today this incredible animal is on the verge of extinction. There are an estimated 20,000 white rhinos left in Africa and just 5000 black rhino. Some sub-species, like the Northern White Rhino, are down to just a handful of animals. In India there are less than 3500 one horned rhino left and fewer than 100 each of the Javan and Sumatran Rhino.
In 2015, 1215 rhinos were poached in South Africa alone! Rhino poaching is surging in other parts of Africa as well (South Africa just has the best data). Poaching is predominantly driven by the illegal trade in rhino horn. Rhino horn (made of keratin) is particularly valued in Vietnam and China for supposed medicinal properties including curing cancer and asthma and to increase libido. At $65,000 a kilogram rhino horn is the most expensive commodity on Earth, even more than gold and platinum. A rhino dies every 7-8 minutes to support a massive market for what is basically toe-nails and has no medicinal value! Efforts to combat rhino poaching range from anti-poaching units and 24 hour guard of some rhino populations, to removing horns or injecting them with die to eliminate their market value (read more here). However it is widely agreed that reducing demand for rhino horn in countries like Vietnam and China will bring about the greatest reduction in poaching numbers. In addition to the conservancies mentioned above, organizations doing great work to protect rhino and reduce demand for rhino horn include Rhinos without Borders, Save the Rhino and WildAid.
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