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Rhinos belong to the ‘old ones’ on our planet. Just like elephants and hippos, they are the surviving representatives of a group of animals that was once very species-rich and diverse: the megaherbivores, or large herbivores.
Unfortunately, for 100 grams of the rare horn you get 6000 US dollars. An average horn weighing three kilos brings in 180,000 US dollars. This makes the keratin horn more expensive than gold. Especially in China and Vietnam the demand is high. A lucrative business for poachers and smugglers.
Let’s spread our excitement for rhinos around the globe and help at least the last populations of rhinos are going to survive.
Here is a sneak peak showing a map where rhinos live on our planet:
You can jump right into the section that interests you most or just read the whole article and soak up the entire knowledge about seeing Rhinos in the Wild.
Which Rhino Species Exist and Are Rhinos Endangered
In this chapter we answer how endangered rhinos really are and show the endangerment of rhinos for every rhino species.
In the past, there were many more rhino species, all but five species have become extinct.
Today rhinos only live in central and southern Africa and in some smaller areas in Asia. In Africa there are still many more rhinos than in Asia. About 600,000 rhinos lived in Asia just a few hundred years ago. The destruction of their habitat and the hunt for the horn have brought them to the brink of extinction.
Here are the five Rhino species, the white rhino and the black rhino are home to Africa, whereas the indian rhino, sumatran rhino, and javanese rhino can be found in Asia.
Do you like Big Animals? We have created another blog which may spark your interest: Best Places to see Hippos
Reasons why Rhinos are Endangered
Why is it so difficult to See Rhinos in the Wild? During the colonial period, uncontrolled hunting caused massive population collapses to the brink of extinction.
On the one hand, rhinoceroses, along with elephants, buffalo, lions and leopards, were among the most sought-after hunting trophies for big game hunters as the “Big Five”. On the other hand, African rhinos were hunted for food and driven out of their habitat by colonisation.
In traditional Asian medicine, rhino horn is a sought-after raw material which is said to have a fever-reducing, detoxifying and antispasmodic effect. This belief still holds true today and leads to a constant demand. In some countries of the Middle East, especially in Yemen, rhinoceros horns were also processed into handles for daggers in the second half of the 20th century. In the 1970s, around three tonnes of rhinoceros horn were exported to Yemen every year. As the stocks of Asian rhinoceroses had also fallen sharply by the end of the 19th century and have hardly recovered since then, African rhinoceroses came under pressure as raw material suppliers for rhinoceros horn to Asia.
The white rhino is the largest rhinoceros and the third largest land mammal on earth after the African and Asian elephant.
The head-torso length of white rhinoceroses is about 3.4 to 4.2 metres, the shoulder height about 1.5 to 1.8 metres and the tail length about 50 to 70 centimetres. White rhinoceroses can weigh between 1350 and 3500 kilograms. The rhinoceros bulls are larger and more massive than the rhinoceros cows. Great to see See Rhinos in the Wild. This difference between males and females is more pronounced than with other rhinoceros species.
Rhinos have a massive body, a short neck and a large head. A striking hump in the neck of the white rhino, made of strong muscles and ligaments, helps to hold the heavy head. White rhinoceroses have an elongated back of the head, which makes them carry their head relatively low. The rhinos’ stately weight is carried by short, sturdy legs with three toes on each foot. The footprint resembles a four-leaf clover.
White rhinoceroses have two horns arranged one behind the other. The front horn sits on the nose, is usually the larger and has an average length of 90 centimetres. In rare cases it can grow up to 1.5 metres long. The rear horn sits on the forehead and can reach up to 55 centimetres in length. Together the two horns can weigh up to six kilograms.
White rhinoceroses, as their name suggests, have a large, broad mouth. Their lips are straight in contrast to those of other rhinoceros species and do not have a finger-shaped grasping appendix typical of rhinoceroses. They also have neither incisors nor canines. Instead, angular cornifications on their lips function similarly to incisors when feeding.
Together with elephants, hippos and tapirs, rhinoceroses are counted among the so-called “pachyderms”. They all have a coarse, often hairless, usually dark-coloured skin, which can be up to five centimetres thick in some places, such as the shoulders. White rhinoceroses have a grey to grey-brown skin colour and are hairless except at the tips of the ears, the edges of the eyelids and the tip of the tail. Due to muddy mud and dust baths, the skin is also often covered by a thick layer of clay, which protects the rhinos from the sun, insects and parasites.
White rhinos can smell and hear very well. Under favourable conditions they can smell danger or conspecifics over hundreds of metres. The ears can be turned independently in all directions. Their eyesight, however, is poorly developed.
Despite their clumsy appearance, rhinos can move surprisingly fast. At a gallop, they can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometres an hour. In contrast to Asian rhinoceroses, white rhinoceroses are poor swimmers.
Endangerment of the White Rhino
150 years ago, more than a million white and black rhinoceros horns were still roaming the savannas of Africa, a lot of places where you could See Rhinos in the Wild. Hunting and poaching caused the population to collapse, especially in the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries.
There are no natural enemies for a white rhino. Even buffalos have no chance against them like it can be seen in this video:
At the end of the 20th century, only wild Northern White Rhinos remained in Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, no rhinoceros has been sighted there since 2006 and the World Conservation Union IUCN assumes that they are also extinct in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This means that the Northern White Rhinos are now extinct in the wild.
Even in captivity there were only a few Northern White Rhinos left at the beginning of the 21st century. In 2009, four Northern White Rhinos were brought from Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic to the private reserve Ol Pejeta in Kenya in the hope that they would be able to reproduce best in a natural environment. However, in 2014 one of the four rhinos died. To date, all other Northern White Rhinos have died in captivity, leaving only the three Northern White Rhinos in Kenya.
The southern white rhinoceroses, however, have managed to get out of the so-called bottleneck. In the second half of the 19th century, the rhino were considered extinct in southern Africa until a population of less than 100 Southern White Rhinos was discovered in what is now Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park in South Africa, which had survived there. Thanks to intensive protection measures, this small remaining population has been able to recover and the Southern White Rhinos have gradually spread again and been resettled in suitable areas.
In 2016, the World Conservation Union IUCN published a report on current population numbers and distribution of the Southern White Rhino.
According to the report, in 2015 there were 18,413 Southern White Rhinos in South Africa, 822 in Namibia, 441 in Kenya, 330 in Zimbabwe, 239 in Botswana, 76 in Swaziland, 29 in Mozambique, 15 in Uganda and 10 in Zambia. This means that more than 90 percent of the total population lives in South Africa. In 2015, the white rhino population totalled around 20,380 animals. These are scattered throughout their range in more than 400 populations that are largely separated from each other.
Endangerment of the Northern White Rhino
There are two subspecies of white rhinoceroses (Ceratotherium simum): the almost extinct Northern (C. s. cottoni) and the Southern white rhinoceros (C. s. simum), 95 percent of whose population is located in South Africa.
The northern white rhino is on the verge of extinction. After the last bull of its subspecies died in March 2018, only two females remain.
This is the other rhino species in Africa. The number of these animals decreased dramatically in the 20th century.
Some subspecies were completely exterminated in Central Africa. Only in the richer countries of Africa are conservation measures taking effect and the populations are increasing again. This is especially true for South Africa and Namibia. However, there are probably less than 5,000 black rhinoceroses in total. Smaller occurrences of this rhinoceros species can be found in Kenya, Tanzania, Simbawe and Rwanda.
Endangerment of Black Rhinos
Populations of black rhino declined dramatically in the 20th century at the hands of European hunters and settlers. Between 1960 and 1995, black rhino numbers dropped by a sobering 98%, to less than 2,500. Since then, the species has made a tremendous comeback from the brink of extinction. Thanks to persistent conservation efforts across Africa, black rhino numbers have doubled from their historic low 20 years ago to between 5,042 and 5,455 today.
However, the black rhino is still considered critically endangered, and a lot of work remains to bring the numbers up to even a fraction of what it once was—and to ensure that it stays there. Wildlife crime—in this case, poaching and black-market trafficking of rhino horn—continues to plague the species and threaten its recovery, which makes it difficult to See Rhinos in the Wild.
Indian Rhino or Great One-Horned Rhino
A rhino species that lives in Northern India and Nepal. There are still 2,000 to 3,000 animals living in the wild, most of them in Indian national parks. About 500 specimens of this species live in Nepal. The populations in the national parks have been increasing again in recent years.
Focal points of rhino populations are the Kaziranga National Park in India and the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. The tank-rhinoceros can be seen in the zoos of Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg, among others.
Endangerment of the Indian Rhino
The original distribution of the Indian tank-rhinoceros stretched from the east of today’s Pakistan over Nepal, North-India and Bangladesh to Myanmar and probably further to South-China. Today its habitat is limited to a few areas in Bhutan, southern Nepal, the Terai Arc Arc and seven retreat areas in the two Indian states of West Bengal and Assam.
About 2,750 tank-rhinoceroses live in the wild. Apart from the loss of habitat, the rhinos’ main fate has been hunting for their horn. Their rhinoceros horn is highly valued in traditional Asian medicine. The value of the horn substance even exceeds that of gold. However, the trade in it is internationally prohibited.
Other than the name suggests, this rhino species inhabited not only the island of Sumatra, but also other islands and the south-east Asian mainland.
The Sumatran rhinoceros is with a body height of only 100 to 150 cm the smallest and most primitive of the five species living today. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the only rhinoceros species with more or less dense hair. It carries two horns. The calves have long, dense reddish-brown hair all over their bodies. The animals use their extended, grasping upper lip to pick branches, leaves, fruits and other parts of the plant.
In its habitat, the dense rainforest, the Sumatran rhinoceros is mainly out at night in search of food. During the day it likes to wallow in the mud to cool down. From the age of six to eight years, the female animals give birth to a calf after a gestation period of about 15 months. This calf stays with its mother for three to four years. It is always beautiful to see a mother and a calf rhino in the wild.
Endangerment of the Sumatran Rhino
A maximum of 150 of these rhinos can still be found in Sumatra today, about 20 on the mainland in Malaysia and the same number on Borneo.
Since almost all Sumatran rhinos live in national parks and the states of Indonesia and Malaysia protect rhino species, there is a chance that the species will survive.
The Java rhinoceros reaches a shoulder height of up to 170 centimetres and a weight of between 1,500 and 2,000 kilograms. In contrast to its two African relatives and the Sumatran rhinoceros, it carries only one horn, which can reach a length of 25 centimetres in males. The females are often hornless.
Marco Polo believed that he had discovered the legendary unicorn when he saw the first rhino horn in what is now Myanmar. That this animal was probably a Java rhinoceros is obvious, because at the end of the 13th century this species was found from the lowlands of Bangladesh over large parts of Indochina to Indonesia. Today the Java rhino is one of the rarest large mammals in the world, as the species only lives in the Ujung Kulon National Park on the western tip of the Indonesian island of Java.
Endangerment of the Javanese Rhino
Of the five rhino species, Javanese rhinos are the most threatened, with only 58-68 individuals living only in Ujung Kulon National Park on Java, Indonesia.
Javanese rhinos once lived throughout northeast India and southeast Asia. The last Javanese rhino in Vietnam was poached in 2010.
The Best Places to See Rhinos in the Wild
The following ranking is sorted after criteria which we believe are the most relevant for those seeking to see rhinos in the wild. We have compiled a list for seeing rhinoceros in the wild.
So, our ranking is based on this criteria:
- How Likely is it to see the rhinoceros or rhino
- The ranking of the ethical nature of the sanctuary
- How former visitors rated the experience with the rhinos
#1 Etosha National Park, Namibia
The visit of the Etosha National Park is one of the highlights of a Namibia trip.
Etosha covers an area of almost 23,000 square kilometres and was declared a game reserve by the German South West African administration as early as 1907. In the centre is an extensive salt pan, about 5000 square kilometres in size, surrounded by grass and thorn savannahs, mopane bush land in the west and dry forest in the north-east. Once, about two million years ago, there was a huge lake here, which was fed by the Kunene River and later gradually dried up by changing the course of the river. Another great place from Where to See Rhinos.
The pan is almost always dry. But especially in the southern and eastern part of the park there are numerous water holes scattered all over the park, the basis of life for the game population in the Etosha National Park. Nearly the whole range of African big game is represented in the park. Due to an animal census carried out by airplane a few years ago, there are about 300 lions in the park, 4000 wildebeests, 200 rhinos, 3000 giraffes and over 2500 elephants. 5500 Oryx antelopes have been counted, besides many other antiope species like Kudu, Impala, Eland or Hartebeest. And of the dainty springboks there are almost 20,000 specimens. Often you can see them in huge herds of several hundred animals. The zebras (Burchell’s zebra or plains zebra) have multiplied particularly strongly. Their population is estimated at over 30,000 animals. Etosha Park is too dry for African buffaloes, and of course there are no hippos.
Unfortunately the rhino population is also threatened in the Etosha National Park. In February 2017 there was another heavy loss. In the western part of the park near Galton Gate, 40 rhinos were poached and their horns sawed off within a few days. The poachers used drones to locate the animals.
Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in Etosha National Park, Namibia
#2 Kruger National Park, South Africa
Kruger national park was already created in 1898 at the instigation of President Paul Kruger.
After hunters and poachers had considerably decimated the originally rich game population of the area, all land between Sabie and Crocodile River was put under nature conservation to ensure the survival of the remaining animals. It was not until 1961 that the now extended Kruger Park was fenced in.
The park extends from the Crocodile River in the south to the Limpopo border river in the north. It is a total of 350 km long, 60 km wide and covers an area of around 20,000 square kilometres – this is roughly the size of Rhineland-Palatinate. The numerous private game reserves of the “Greater Kruger Park”, which border the Kruger National Park especially in the south and southwest, are not included in this calculation.
Kruger is home to an enormous variety of species: 336 tree species, 49 fish species, 34 amphibians, 114 reptile species, 507 bird species and 147 mammal species.
A total of 1863 km of roads pass through the area, 697 km of which are paved. There are numerous differently equipped “rest camps” available for visitors, mostly in beautiful locations. Within the park area you may only move from sunrise to sunset. Otherwise you must leave the park or go to the fenced camps.
When the Kruger National Park was founded in 1926, there was not a single white rhino left here because of the large poaching. It was not until around 1960 that they were resettled from the Natal.
In the meantime, about 3,000 white rhinos and 300 black rhinos live in the park again. They are quite blind, but due to their good hearing and nose, it is very rare to get near them. A great place to See Rhinos in the Wild.
Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in Kruger National Park
Kruger has countless accommodations but we looked for three that were sticking out for us, from high budget to low budget.
#3 Serengeti Nationalpark, Tansania
Endless grasslands with acacia trees, forests with a network of watercourses and hills with dense vegetation. Most who visit the Serengeti are overwhelmed by the fantastic nature.
The area of the Serengeti National Park is 14,763 km2. It is also one of the oldest and most complex ecosystems in the world.
The Serengeti was named after the large open grassy plains found to the south and center of the park. “Serengeti” in the Masai language, Maa, means “endless grassy plains”.
To the west of the Serengeti, the Grumeti River flows and breathes life into the green forests in this area. Here you can marvel at the great migration between May and July.
There are few trees growing on the plains in the south, as there is volcanic rock in the soil that prevents the trees from taking root. The plains in this part of the park are perfect for watching wildebeests and gazelles of the great migration.
The Serengeti Park is very proud of its large group of white rhinos and their offspring! Since the park opened in 1974, more than 40 young animals have been born here, romping across the vast areas and enchanting our visitors. White rhinos are the second largest land mammals on earth. They reach a shoulder height of up to 1.90 metres. Do you have any idea how heavy a rhino can get? One male can weigh up to 3.6 tons!
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Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in Serengeti Nationalpark, Tansania
A few selected lodges sorted from high budget to low budget.
#4 Kaziranga National Park, India
The Kaziranga National Park is located in the north-east of India, in the present state of Assam.
Along the great river Brahmaputra, in the Karbi Anglong Hills, two thirds of the world population of the unicorn rhino still lives. The 430 square kilometers large protected area is famous for these unique animals and is therefore UNESCO World Natural Heritage since 1985. Since 2006 the national park is also a tiger reserve.
The best chance to see these living giants in the wild is in Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam. The national park is the most important protected area for the tank-rhinoceros and is home to over 70% of the world’s total population. The core area of the Kaziranga has been under protection since 3 January 1908 and has been repeatedly extended by a few square kilometres.
Since 1985, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Adult animals have no natural enemies. Calves, however, become victims of tigers, which they tear if the mother animal is careless. A considerable number of young animals can die in the process. In Kaziranga National Park alone, more than 200 rhinos killed in this way were recorded between 1985 and 2000. That makes it more and more difficult to See Rhinos in the Wild.
Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in Kaziranga National Park
#5 Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana
A wild rhino drinking from a pool? Where do you find that? The Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Botswana! Just brilliant and totally curious.
A male black rhino obviously finds the water from the pool extremely tasty.
Or maybe it’s just too lazy to go to another water source. In any case, the rhino is the attraction at Khama Rhino Sanctuary. Because every day it comes marching to the pool here.
Extra warning signs have already been put up for the regular visitors. But it is actually peaceful, used to people and simply ignores them, as the waiter of the restaurant that is located right at the pool assures us. And in fact, the stately rhino bull does not pay us any attention when he appears leisurely on the screen.
The Khama Rhino Sanctuary was founded in 1992 as a community project for the protection of rhinos, which were almost extinct in Botswana due to poachers. The last remaining white rhinos in Moremi and Chobe were relocated to the new sanctuary. In the meantime they have been breeding here and have also been given company by a few black rhinos.
Well guarded by a unit of the Botswana army the grey pachyderms seem to feel comfortable here. Since the beginning of the new millennium, some rhinos from South Africa have also been released into the wild in the Okavango Delta.
You will find the 4300 hectare Khama Rhino Sanctuary about 25 kilometres north of Serowe. It is worth a visit all year round, as both the rhinos and the other animals can be easily observed at any time of the year thanks to the fencing and the small size of the reserve. The centre of the park is the grassy Serwe Pan with several natural waterholes.
Otherwise, the vegetation consists of dry bush and tree savannah. The paths in the park are very sandy. Therefore, it is best to drive off on your own with a four-wheel drive vehicle. Alternatively, guided game drives are also available.
Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in The Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Botswana
#6 Mkhaya Game Reserve, Eswatini
The Mkhaya Game Reserve not far from the settlement of Siphofaneni – 65 kilometres southeast of the capital Mbabane – is the most famous game reserve in the Kingdom of Swaziland, the smallest state in southern Africa.
The reserve is named after the Acacia nigrescens (‘Knob tree’), a tree species of the southern savannah with button-like outgrowths on the trunk. The reserve cannot be visited with your own (rental) car. Advance booking is absolutely necessary.
Meeting point for the visit of this reserve is Phuzamoya, where you will be picked up by jeep at 10.00 am and 4.00 pm for day visitors and overnight guests.
Best accommodations and tour operators to see rhinos in Mkhaya Game Reserve, Eswatini
Summary on Where to See Rhinos
Rhinos are very diverse and special creatures. They deserve our efforts to be safed. There are a lot of amazing places, where you can See Rhinos in the Wild. If you would like to contribute to the safety of rhinos then visit our friends at the WWF here.