Platinum Rhino, the worlds largest captive rhino breeding operation sold to africaparksnetwork! (update, instagram embed did not work)

Hearing this news, one might think “great, another 10-20 rhino”? Think again.

Platinum rhino holds as much as 15% of the current wild population in its operation -2000 individuals. Here is an instagram on the news!

This could be great! Current rhino numbers are estimated to be in the low 2000, down 79% since 2011. Releasing the whole herd back into the Kruger could allow numbers a sizable boost, and rapidly move the kruger back towards its former stronghold of the white rhino. However, in the first half of 2023 over 200 rhino were poached from the Kruger, suggesting that this is not going to be easy.

Unfortunately, the Kruger is already one of the best preserved large reserves in the world. Thankfully, rhino horn has dropped in value from its peak in 2012 of $65,000 per kg, down to a current $8000 per kg. It would be good to depress this further, however the risks for the poacher are very high: not only are many poachers killed by the rhino, they are also often killed by other wildlife such as lions – and the Kruger has a sizable number of man-eating specialists.

I suspect the organization will spread the rhino around, across many of their reserves. Hopefully the recognition that farms like this make no sense, will allow them to thrive back in the wild.

Education is still needed in China, Vietnam and elsewhere. Rhino horn is the same substance as your finger-nails, Keratin. Consuming it will make no difference to any medical condition, science has tried to show any positive health benefit, and can see nothing scientific – at best a placebo effect.

Below, is a video about this farm, 6 years ago back in its heyday. Hopefully, all these rhino can recover white rhino populations far and wide.

Can simple changes help the Javan rhino recover?

Above is a fascinating video about a photographers journey to try to see this rhinos in the wild (spoiler alert, it was a success, as you can see from the thumbnail). The problem is that despite this video being from 8 years ago, the Javan rhino has not recovered a great deal in the intervening years.

So, when I say it has not recovered much in those years, what do I mean? Well in 2015 the Javan rhino population was estimated at 72, it is now thought to number 76.

A new study has suggested a number of idaes that might accelerate the recovery of this rhino.

These are captive breeding, and forest clearance to give more areas for the rhino to feed.

While the latter may well have some merit, the former may not. It should also be noted that currently 13 of the rhino show signs of inbreeding. So why not bring some of the remaining rhino into captivity, in order to breed? This has not proved highly successful in the past, and indeed often a number of individuals die in the early stages. With a population of just 76 individuals, we do not have spare rhino to gamble with.

Like the Sumatran rhino, the small population left in Java is a relict of a species which roamed a great area of Asia, until not that long ago. If we can save this Javan population there is a potential in the future to reintroduce them to a wide variety of countries in this part of Asia, both mainland and islands.

Will this happen? who knows

Indian Greater one horned rhino

Indian greater one horned rhinoceros

Native to the Indian sub-continent, it is listed on the red list, and is only found across 20,000 square kilometres, or 7,700 square miles This is a smaller area than the size of Wales. Unfortunately, as you can see, the rhino does not roam this whole area, to the contrary, it is only found in a few small areas.

At the last full assessment (August 2018) the population was estimated to at 3588 individuals (recent estimates suggest a population of over 4000, but I will use the numbers from 5 years ago, as it is unclear how this growth has been split within the sites). Of this number 2939 were in India, witht he rest in Nepal. In 2009 2048 of these rhinos lived in Kaziranga national park. 

Other places include translocated 18 rhinos from Kaziranga National Park and Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary to Assam’s Manas National Park on the India-Bhutan border. As of 2017, Manas was home to 29 rhinos.

As of August 2018, the global population was estimated to comprise 3,588 individuals, including 2,939 individuals in India and 649 in Nepal Kaziranga National Park alone had an estimated population of 2,048 rhinos in 2009. Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam has the highest density of Indian rhinos in the world with 84 individuals in an area of 38.80 km(14.98 sq mi) in 2009.

Sumatran Rhino

Sumatran Rhinoceros Photo Credit Kat Jenkinson

Sumatran Rhinoceros

Sumatran rhino is also known as a  hairy rhinoceros or Asian two-horned rhinoceros. Like the Javan rhino, the Sumatran rhino once had a range which covered a far larger area: rainforests, swamps and cloud forests in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and southwestern China, particularly in Sichuan.

There are still 3 on the island of Borneo, as you can see, the map still lists a population on the Malay peninsula though it is thought that this group is extinct. The 3 subspecies are:

  • The Sumatran island population: Western (34-47 individuals). This is unfortunately split in to 4 populations
  • The Borneo island population: Eastern (may be as low as 3). This was only discovered in 2016 in            East Kalimantan, after the population in Sabah, Malaysia (northern part of the island) was declared extinct in 2015
  • The mainland population: Northern (this is thought to be extinct as of 2010, but it is possible that a small group remain.
The Sumatran rhino spends most of its life alone, except for courtship and raising of young. It is more vocal than other rhino species, as well as communicating through marking soil with its feet, twisthing saplings into patterns, and leaving excrement. the species is much better studied than the similarly hard to see or find, for the Javan rhinoceros, in part because of a program which bought 40 Sumatran rhino into captivity in an attempt to preserve the species. Though a number of rhinos died once at the various destinations, and no offspring were produced for 20 years.

 

Only four areas are known to contain Sumatran rhinoceros: Bukit Barisan Selatan National park, Gunung Leuser national park, and Way Kambas National park on Sumatra, and on Borneo west of Samarindah.

We hope to be able to list trekking for seeing animals like this in the future, do get in touch if you work in this field.

Javan Rhino

Javan Rhinoceros

Javan rhino are on the verge of extinction. They are currently restricted to the island of Java in Indonesia. Unfortunately, this is a bigger issue than a rare species that is likely to vanish from Java in the near future.

Up until the middle of the 1800, this rhinoceros species was found Java and Sumatra and onto the mainland of Southeast Asia and Indochina, northwest into East India, Bhutan, and the south of China.

Now, one might argue that many species had wider ranges 150 years ago, but the Javan rhino only declared extinct in Vietnam, back in 2010. In other words, just 13 years ago this species lost its last hold on the Asian mainland. Their closest relative is the Indian greater one-horned rhino (though this is not a recent split, they are separate species).

Now they are restricted to one national park in Java which sits on the far western tip. Here, lies the Ujung Kulon national park, a wilderness covering 1206km2 (466miles2) though 443km2 (171miles2) of that is marine. In this wilderness, roams the last Javan rhinos on the planet. It is currently thought that there are 74 of them in this area. It should be noted that the population has grown since the below video was made – mentions the population as 73.

Furthermore, the Javan and Sumatran Rhino species are not closely related, indeed with the Sumatran Rhino, it is thought to be more closely related to the African rhino, rather than the Asian Rhino species.

Below is an incredibly rare bit of footage of Javan rhino in their small patch of remaining wilderness, from a charity called SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction).

Other animals found here include 35 endemic mammal species can be found in the park, including the banteng, silvery gibbon, Javan lutung, Crab-eating macaque, Javan leopard, Sumatran dhole, Java mouse-deer, Javan rusa, fishing can and smoothcoated otter. There are also 72 species of reptiles and amphibians and 240 species of birds

Black Rhino

Black Rhino

So the black rhino is one of the two rhino species that survive in Africa. Their last common ancestor was around 6 million years ago  (in comparison the Javan and Indian rhino split just 2 million years ago). Being browsers, not grazers, they are far harder to see, as they spend their time deep in the bush, far from the open plains where white rhino are discovered.

Being solitary, they are also generally found at far lower densities than white rhinos. having said this, in many reserves this is as much as a result of poaching as of a low natural density. Having spent some time based around the Kruger, we have encountered White rhino a huge number of times, but black rhino have eluded us, though their dropping have been encountered on a few occasions.

The black rhino is a younger species than the white rhino having evolved from it, 4-5 million years ago.

They both have 2 horns, made of keratin, the same as our fingernails, with the front one being longer than the back one. The front horn has an average length of 50cm, though this is not a set thing. Plenty of black rhino have been measured with a horn 135cm long, and the world record was a horn 150cm long.

Regions of their range have been lost at various times, though in recent times, there has been an effort to turn back time In May 2017, 18 eastern black rhinos were translocated from South Africa to the Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The park had around 50 rhinos in the 1970s but had lost them all by 2007. In September 2017 18 were reintroduced, and 1 has been born since. The park employs a team to protect the rhinos and so far this has worked. In October 2017, This transfer took place in 2018. The governments of Chad and South Africa reached an agreement in October 2017,  to transfer six black rhinos from South Africa to Zakouma National Park in Chad; this was complete by May 2018. Once established, this will be the northernmost population of the species. The species was wiped out from Chad in the 1970s and is under severe pressure from poaching in South Africa. The agreement calls for South African experts to assess the habitat, local management capabilities, security and the infrastructure before the transfer can take place.

Historically there have been a wide range of subspecies suggested for this species: The most accepted position considers seven or eight subspecies, of which three became extinct in historical times and one is on the brink of extinction. I have listed all these below

  • Southern black rhinoceros also known as Cape black rhinoceros (D. b. bicornis) – Extinct. Once abundant from the Cape of Good Hope to Transvaal, South Africa and probably into the south of Namibia, this was the largest subspecies. It became extinct due to excessive hunting and habitat destruction around 1850.
  • North-eastern black rhinoceros (D. b. brucii) – Extinct. Formerly central Sudan, Eritrea, northern and south-eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti and northern and south-eastern Somalia. Relict populations in northern Somalia vanished during the early 20th century.
  • Western black rhinoceros (D. b. longipes) – Extinct. Once lived in South Sudan, northern Central African Republic, southern Chad, northern Cameroon, north-eastern Nigeria and south-eastern Niger. The range possibly stretched west to the Niger River in western Niger, though this is unconfirmed. The evidence from Liberia and Burkina Faso mainly rests upon the existence of indigenous names for the rhinoceros. A far greater former range in West Africa as proposed earlier is doubted by a 2004 study. The last known wild specimens lived in northern Cameroon. In 2006 an intensive survey across its putative range in Cameroon failed to locate any, leading to fears that it was extinct in the wild. On 10 November 2011 the IUCN declared the western black rhinoceros extinct.
  • Chobe black rhinoceros (D. b. chobiensis) – A local subspecies restricted to the Chobe Valley in southeastern Angola, Namibia (Zambezi Region) and northern Botswana. Nearly extinct, possibly only one surviving specimen in Botswana.
  • Uganda black rhinoceros (D. b. ladoensis) – Former distribution from South Sudan, across Uganda into western Kenya and south-westernmost Ethiopia. Black rhinos are considered extinct across most of this area and its conservational status is unclear. Probably surviving in Kenyan reserves.
  • Eastern black rhinoceros (D. b. michaeli) – Had a historical distribution from South Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia, down through Kenya into north-central Tanzania. Today, its range is limited primarily to Kenya and Tanzania.
  • South-central black rhinoceros (D. b. minor) – Most widely distributed subspecies, characterised by a compact body, proportionally large head and prominent skin-folds. Ranged from north-eastern South Africa (KwaZulu-Natal) to north-eastern Tanzania and south-eastern Kenya. Preserved in reserves throughout most of its former range but probably extinct in eastern Angola, southern Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Mozambique. Extinct but reintroduced in Malawi, Botswana, and Zambia. It also ranges in parts of Namibia and inhabit national parks in South Africa.
  • South-western black rhinoceros (D. b. occidentalis) – A small subspecies, adapted to survival in desert and semi-desert conditions. Originally distributed in north-western Namibia and southwestern Angola, today restricted to wildlife reserves in Namibia with sporadic sightings in Angola. These populations are often referred to D. b. bicornis or D. b. minor, but some experts consider them a subspecies in their own right.

The most widely adopted alternative scheme only recognizes five subspecies or “eco-types”: D. b. bicornisD. b. bruciiD. b. longipesD. b. michaeli, and D. b. minor. This concept is also used by the  IUCN, listing three surviving subspecies and recognizing D. b. brucii and D. b. longipes as extinct. The most important difference to the above scheme is the inclusion of the extant southwestern subspecies from Namibia in D. b. bicornis instead of in its own subspecies, whereupon the nominal subspecies is considered extant.

Seeing Black rhino is hard, but they are in most African reserves that we list

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