Asia has three species of rhino: the greater one-horned rhino, Javan rhino and Sumatran rhino.
The greater one-horned rhino or Indian rhino is a great success story in rhino conservation. With the implementation of strict protection measures, its numbers have recovered from fewer than 200 earlier in the 1900s to around 2,500 today.
In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature revised its listing of the greater one-horned rhino from ‘endangered’ to a less-threatened category of ‘vulnerable’.
The other two species are listed as ‘critically endangered’. The Sumatran rhino is the only Asian rhino with two horns, and is the smallest of all rhino species. It has suffered a rapid rate of decline, mainly because of poaching, with numbers decreasing by more than 50% since 1994.
The Javan rhino is the rarest species, with fewer than 60 individuals surviving in the wild and none in captivity.
Why the Asian rhino needs help
The poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade in their horns are the main threats to all the Asian rhinos populations, despite an international ban on such trade.
The quantity of rhino horn entering the illegal trade has increased significantly since 2000, indicating ongoing market demand and organised trade routes to the Middle and Far East.
For centuries, powdered horn has been used in traditional Asian medicine to reduce fever and as a cure for a wide range of ailments. It's also used to make dagger handles in the Middle East.
But demand has gone through the roof in recent years thanks to unexplained rumours in Vietnam about miraculous rhino horn cures. Today it’s used as a supposed treatment for everything from cancer to hangovers, while some people consume it purely to be trendy and advertise their wealth.
Asian rhinos have also suffered from loss of their rainforest and marshland habitat, mainly due to human settlement, logging and expanding agriculture. They now survive mainly in small, isolated areas, which increases the risk of inbreeding.
What we're doing – and how you can help
WWF works with governments, local communities and other NGOs to improve the conservation and management of rhinos by:
- restoring and connecting suitable areas of habitat
- improving biological monitoring
- sharing expertise, building the skills and capacity of people working with rhinos
- implementing proactive anti-poaching measures
- reducing consumer demand for rhino horn and its derivatives
- improving management of rhino horn stockpiles to stop the illegal trade.
We also work to update policy frameworks, legislation and law enforcement measures to benefit rhinos and their habitats.