All five species of rhinos face an uncertain future. The rhinoceros populations of Africa and Asia are either threatened or endangered. They could face extinction and their numbers have been decimated over much of their habitat range. The animals are nearsighted, keep regular habits and are easily tracked and hunted. They are often a danger to each other as the males violently fight during mating season. Mother rhinos must protect their babies from predators such as crocodiles, lions and hyenas.
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The two African species of rhino are the most well known. Although called black rhinos and white rhinos, both species are grey or brown coloured. There are two subspecies of white rhino, the northern and southern varieties. The southern white rhino is the least endangered of the wild rhinos. As of 2008, the northern white rhino is feared extinct in the wild. Black rhinos are slowly recovering from a steep decline in their population from over-hunting.
Three species of rhinoceros live in Asia. The Indian and Javan species have one horn. The smallest of all rhinos, the Sumatran has one horn and is the only hairy rhino. The Javan rhino is one of the most endangered mammals on Earth from habitat loss and poaching. A subspecies of Javan rhinos lives in Vietnam. The Indian rhino, also called the Nepalese rhino, is rebounding from near extinction thanks to conservation and strict protection efforts.
A danger to many rhinos, especially the Asian ones, is the loss and degradation of their habitat. Rhinos are very large animals requiring an extensive grazing range. Agriculture has taken over much of this land. The Javan and Sumatran rhino population is losing much of their forest habitat from the growing demand for palm oil. Expanding teak plantations in India have shrunk the stamping grounds of the Indian rhino. Human development and urbanisation eats up large amounts of rhino habitat worldwide.
By far the biggest threat to all rhinos is the danger posed by human poaching. Rhinos are illegally hunted for their horns which are ground up and used as medicine in Asian markets. Certain areas of the Middle East use rhino horns for knife handles. Poachers have gone high-tech, using helicopters, night-vision equipment, rifle silencers and powerful drug darts to hunt the animals. Hunters kill the animals in the wild and even attack them in national parks and animal preserves.
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