SADC Regional Programme for Rhino Conservation
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The white rhino
The white rhino

The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) used to have a continental range that was discontinuous and smaller than that of the black rhino. The white rhino lives in grasslands and savannah woodlands. It is also called the square-lipped rhino, because of the shape of its mouth, which is adapted to its diet of grass.

Two subspecies are recognised: the northern white rhino (C. s. cottoni) of which only a few survive, in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; and the southern white rhino (C. s. simum), which used to be found across much of southern Africa. The SADC Rhino Conservation Programme targeted only the southern sub-species.

Following widespread hunting and the reclamation of land for agriculture, only approximately 20 animals of the southern white rhino survived by 1895, all in the Umfolozi area of South Africa . Since then, owing to intensive management and protection and the development of techniques for the successful translocation of white rhinos to establish additional populations, the number has increased. Populations of white rhinos were gradually re-established at other sites in South Africa and later in other countries. By the end of 2003, the wild population numbered more than 11000 animals. This is one of conservation’s great success stories.

By 2003, 93% of the wild population lived in South Africa , but there were also small populations in Botswana , Namibia , Swaziland , Zimbabwe and Mozambique (and in Zambia which is outside the historical range of the species). A reintroduction in Angola during the 1980s failed. By 2003, SADC range states accounted for 98% of the population of the southern sub-species (the population in Kenya is out of range).


Distribution of the two subspecies of white rhinoceros

This distribution map is based on one produced by the IUCN/SSC African Rhino Specialist Group: for security reasons and to protect the wishes of some range states, maps showing the names and location of individual populations are not produced.