David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Rhino Facts

With five species of rhino distributed across two continents, each exhibiting different behaviours, habitat preferences, and even diets, there’s a lot to learn about these incredible animals. Here, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about rhinos.

Learning about rhinos for the first time?

Download and print our rhino factsheet for interesting facts on these beautiful big creatures.

Where do rhinos live?

White rhinos can be found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. They typically prefer grassland and open savannah woodland habitat. Whereas black rhinos are more widely distributed across eastern and southern Africa, and generally stick to transitional zones between forest and grassland. But as a more robust species, they can also survive in scrub and even desert environments.

Javan rhinos are now limited to the Ujung Kulon National Park of their namesake island, and are most at home in marshy, forested areas as well as regions with thick bamboo and brush.

Greater one-horned rhinos are also known as Indian rhinos but can also be found in Nepal. They typically live in wetland grasslands but are mostly restricted to protected areas and conservancies in north and north-eastern India.

Sumatran rhinos are found in tiny, fragmented populations inside national parks on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Their habitat ranges from lowland swamps to montane forests.

However, with all species of extant rhinos, we must consider that they once enjoyed a much larger range comprised of multiple habitats, and we shouldn’t always confuse the small pockets of deep wilderness where they have taken refuge as their preferred environments. 

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Which rhino species have gone extinct?

Both the western black rhino and northern white rhino are considered extinct in the wild. The Indian Javan rhino has been considered extinct since 1920, and the Vietnamese Javan rhino has been considered extinct since 2010.

Current populations

There are approximately 15,940 white rhinos left in the wild. The species is classed as near threatened, but this does not account for the many isolated populations facing local, geographical extinction, or sub-species such as Northern white rhinos that are now effectively extinct, with only two females surviving.

It is thought that there are fewer than 80 Javan rhinos left in the wild, restricted to populations in two national parks. Although their numbers are increasing slowly due to rigorous protection, they are still incredibly vulnerable and are classed as critically endangered.

How long do rhinos live?

All five of the extant rhino species have estimated life spans of 35-50 years.

How much do rhinos weigh?

White rhinos – the largest and bulkiest of the rhino species, can weigh as much as 3 tonnes (3,000 kg) or 6,600 lbs. Even Sumatran rhinos, the smallest of the five species, come in at 600 kg (1,322 lbs.). No wonder they’re lovingly referred to as chubby unicorns!

How fast are rhinos?

Both greater one-horned and black rhinos are pretty fast – capable of 55 km/h (34 mph). White rhinos aren’t far behind, clocking up a respectable 50 km/h (30 mph).

What do rhinos use their horn for?

Rhinos use their horns for various purposes. They can use it as a weapon, defending themselves from predators or in territory disputes with other rhinos. They can also use it more gently, with mothers often observed using their horns to guide their calves. Horns also play a role in foraging behaviour, such as digging for water or breaking branches – this is especially true for the Javan and Sumatran species. Greater one-horned rhinos generally don’t use their horns for defence, as they have long, sharp incisors and canine teeth which they prefer to bite with!

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David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Andrew Hawrylyszyn

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