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Prelims Capsule


Northern White Rhinoceros facts – Can the subspecies be saved?

Northern White Rhinoceros facts – Can the subspecies be saved?


  • GS 3 || Environment || Biodiversity || Conservation Efforts

Why in the news?

Recently on social media, a lot of misinformation has been spreading about the status of the northern white rhino, claiming that the northern white rhino is recently extinct.

What happened recently?

  • Paired with a photo of a zookeeper compassionately petting a rhino as he takes his last breath, the public had reason to believe this story was true.
  • While this subspecies of rhinos are functionally extinct, they actually have already been for years since 2018.

Northern white rhino facts:

  • The white rhino is the third largest African animal (after the elephant and hippo) and weighs between 1,700 and 2,400 km.
  • White rhinos are not actually white, but grey. The confusion results from a misinterpretation of the Dutch word ‘wijde’ (meaning wide, not white), used to describe the rhino’s mouth.
  • The wide mouth is an adaptation that helps them graze on grass, as opposed to the black rhino’s pointed mouth, which is adapted for browsing on leaves, shoots and branches.
  • Rhino horn is used in traditional Asian medicines and to demonstrate social status.
  • There is also the black (or hook-lipped) rhinoceros in Africa, which too, is fighting for survival, and at least three of whose subspecies are already extinct.
  • It is critically endangered in the IUCN Red list.
  • Although black rhinos are still rated “Critically Endangered” by both the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the IUCN, their population has been steadily rising for several decades.
  • From a historic low of 2,500 in the 1990s, black rhinos have bounced back to between 5,000 and 5,500 individuals today, according to the WWF.

Indian rhinoceros:

  • The Indian rhinoceros is different from its African cousins, most prominently in that it has only one horn. It is vulnerable in the IUCN Red list.
  • There is also a Javan rhino, which too, has one horn, and a Sumatran rhino which, like the African rhinos, has two horns.
  • Both Javan and Sumatran Rhino are critically endangered in the IUCN Red list.
  • Indian Rhino: Great one horned Rhino
    • The Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros species that is only found in India. On the IUCN Red List and in CITES Appendix I, it is classified as Vulnerable.
    • Alluvial grassland and riverine woodland are the habitats of this species.
    • Range countries: It may be found in Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan, and India, with India accounting for approximately 85% of the population with 2,200 rhinos.
    • In India Rhinos are found in some parts ofUP, West Bengal and Assam.

Rhino conservation in India:

  • Translocating rhinos: It is an important part of broader efforts to conserve this magnificent species. It helps to expand available habitat, improve the genetic variability of an existing population, reduce the potential risk of diseases and in-breeding, and help revive habitats.
  • The Greater One-Horned Rhinos habitat is limited to tiny areas of the Indo-Nepal terai, northern West Bengal, and Assam.
  • Lack of habitat diversity:
    • Because the Indian rhino’s population range is limited, with 70% of the population concentrated in one location – Kaziranga National Park – an unforeseen catastrophic event such as illness, natural disaster, or habitat degradation will have a significant influence on the rhino’s condition.
    • Since 1986, rhinos have been translocated annually from Chitwan to Bardia National Park and Shuklaphanta National Park to safeguard their survival in the event of epidemics or pandemic.
  • Poaching:
  1. Poachers are immediately threatening rhino horns, which are a key component in traditional Chinese medicine. Between 2013 and 2018, over 100 rhinos were poached in India.
  2. Although breeding Indian rhinos in captivity proved challenging, Indian zoos grew competent at the process in the late twentieth century. They’ve also been produced at foreign zoos, like the Zoo Basel in Switzerland, which has had a lot of success with its breeding program.
  3. Other conservation efforts by the Indian government have generally succeeded in conserving the Indian rhino’s remnant populations, although poaching continues to be a persistent danger despite efforts to regulate it.
  • Rhinos are mostly found in Assam’s Kaziranga NP, Pobitora WLS, Orang NP, Manas NP, West Bengal’s Jaldapara NP and Gorumara NP, and Uttar Pradesh’s Dudhwa TR.
  • The Ministry of the Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has started a project to develop DNA profiles of all rhinos in the country.
  • The National Rhino Conservation Strategy (NRCS) aims to protect rhinos across the country. It was established in 2019 with the goal of protecting the larger one-horned rhinoceros.
  • New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019:
    • The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019 was signed by India and four rhino range countries for the conservation and protection of the species.
    • India worked with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia, and Malaysia to boost the population of three Asian rhino species, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros, which can be found in India.
    • The declaration was signed in order to protect and review the population of Greater one-horned, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos every four years in order to reevaluate the necessity for collaborative efforts to ensure their survival.
  • The Indian Rhino Vision 2020 initiative: It began in 2005, aims to achieve a natural population of at least 3,000 larger one-horned rhinos dispersed throughout seven protected regions in the Indian state of Assam by 2020.
  • Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 is a partnership between:
    • The Bodoland Territorial Council,
    • The US Fish and Wildlife Service.
    • The Assam Forest Department,
    • The International Rhino Foundation (IRF), and
    • The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF),
  • By 2020, the objective is to have at least 3,000 larger one-horned rhinos in the wild in the Indian state of Assam.
  • With the aid of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and other non-governmental organizations, the Indian and Nepalese governments have taken significant efforts toward rhinoceros conservation in India.


Change is climatic condition not only affecting human life but all the organism present, survival of all the organism in the time of pandemic become biggest challenge in the history of mankind, but few life are struggling from longer time for the existence. Indian Rhino are among those few, every year the Kaziranga national park witnesses’ death of rhino due to excessive rain. In recent times many steps have been taken to conserve the Rhino. It is also important as they are left few in numbers and part of the ecosystem should be kept conserved for nature’s balance and future generation.

Mains oriented question:

Kaziranga National Park has always witnessed problems faced by Rhino there in the park due to flood in Assam, it seems helpless many a time though many steps have been taken to protect Rhino. Write about the steps taken to conserve Rhino in India.  (200 words)