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Black Rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis


The black rhinoceros has four subspecies, one of which was declared extinct in 2011, with two others critically endangered.

Rhinos, along with equids and tapirs, are the only surviving members of an ancient and formerly diverse group of ungulates, which originated around 50 million years ago. The black rhino has a prehensile (or grasping) upper lip, which it uses to draw plant material into its mouth. Their population decreased by a massive 96% between 1970 and 1992, the largest decline of any rhino species. The black rhino has been the victim of persecution for being seen as volatile and dangerous over the 20th century, but in recent years its major threat comes from poaching for the international rhino horn trade. The rhino horn is made out of simple keratin; the same protein as our and all mammals’ hair and nails are made from. Despite this, they are used in Chinese medicine for an array of unrelated illnesses; fueling the rhino horn trade. They also face threats from habitat changes, competing species and alien plant invasions.

  • Order: Perissodactyla
  • Family: Rhinocerotidae
  • Population: 4,880
  • Trend: increasing
  • Size: 3-3.75m
  • Weight: 800-1,400kg
GE / IUCN Red List (?)
Not Evaluated Data Deficient Least Concern Near Threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically Endangered Extinct in the Wild Extinct


Black Rhinoceros were once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception of the Congo Basin. Today the main populations live in reserves in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Kenya.

Habitat and Ecology

Black Rhinoceros are found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannas and shrublands, although their preferred habitat is the transitional zone between grassland and forest. Black rhinos are restricted to areas within 25km of a permanent water source and are browsers, feeding on a wide variety of plant material, such as leaves and twigs of woody plants and legumes, supplemented with minerals obtained from salt-licks. Black rhinos are generally solitary, although small groups often congregate at wallows and salt-licks.

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This wordcloud illustrates the threats facing this species. The size of each word indicates the extent of a species range that is affected by that threat (larger size means a greater area is affected). The colour of the word indicates how much that threat impacts the species (darker shades of red mean the threat is more severe).

Hunting Wars Ecosystem changes Native species

Threat wordcloud key:

Small area affected
Large area affected
Least severe
Most severe
Severity unknown
Source: The IUCN List of Threatened Species. Version 2017.1.
Available at:

Horris Wanyama

  • Project name: Population performance of black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) in two key Rhino Areas, Tsavo Conservation Area
  • Project site: Tsavo West National Park, Kenya
  • Active: 2017 - 2019
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