White Rhinos in Kenya

White Rhinos are becoming more rare in the wild.
Image: Shutterstock

White Rhinos are becoming a thing of the past.  Sadly, their numbers have been on the decline for decades.  In response to that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have placed the rhino under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

This is the last species of rhinoceros to be placed under federal protection.  It closes a loophole that poachers used to get away with murdering rhinos for their horns for a lucrative profit.

The name “white rhinoceros” may be a bit misleading, though.  The white rhino actually varies in color from slate gray to yellow brown.  They are never white.  The name comes from Dutch “weit,” meaning wide, in reference to the animal’s muzzle.  Some call it the “square-lipped” rhino in reference to its lip shape; most other rhinos have pointed lips.

These large creatures weigh from 3,000 to 3,800 pounds and stand between four to six feet tall.  It would be heartbreaking to lose this majestic creature.

Compared to other rhinos, the white rhino is rather docile and so an easy target for poachers who are their main threat.  Their hunting used to be unregulated.

Some of the main difficulties in protecting the rhinos has been civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo and poachers encroaching from Sudan.  Armed conflict in the region makes for difficult travel in some areas.  Park rangers often risk their lives by facing off against illegal poachers.  They have to wear bullet-proof vests.

The WWF has started programs to try to protect this dwindling species.  So far, they have expanded protected areas and their management, established new protected areas, improved security monitoring to protect rhinos from poaching, worked with law officials to stop the flow of rhino horn and other illegal trade items from Africa outward, and promoted well-managed, wildlife-based tourism that provides additional funding for conservation efforts.