Tag Archives: rhinoceros

Rhinos Of The Forest Pt. 3

Rhinoceros are not just animals of savannah and desert as we established in the first two installments of this series (Pt. 1, Pt. 2).

These great animals inhabit moist forest and even highland areas in Africa and in Asia, most of the remnant rhino populations are in dense forest or mountainous areas.

Indian rhinos. (Photo Creative Commons License/Bernard Dupont)

African rhinos get a fair amount of mainstream wildlife coverage but their cousins in Asia get almost none which was a big inspiration for me to do this series.

The Javan and Sumatran rhinos are as on the edge of extinction as any animal on the planet, but not everything in Asia is bad.

In fact, in India, there has been quite a turnaround in the population of Indian or one-horned rhinos according to officials with the World Wildlife Fund.

Both range countries, India and Nepal, have been very successful in expanding greater one-horned rhino numbers from around 200 individuals at the turn of the 20th century to a total of around 3,500 today.

Vigorous anti-poaching patrols and successful translocations from one area to another has brought the species back from the brink of extinction.

Wardens monitoring a white rhino in Kenya. (Public Domain Photo)

In Africa, rhino farming has been extremely successful in South Africa and hunter-based iniatives including “green hunting” where rhinos are darted and sperm is collected to artifiically insimiate rhinos in other areas have proven successful especially for white rhinos.

But the situation is very serious out there on the poaching end. The Asian demand has not ceased. Here are a few standouts to show how much effort it takes to keep rhinos in existence.

*Zoo Poaching: A rhino was poached for its horns at a zoo in France in 2016. “Rhino poaching has historically targeted wild populations,” said Dr. Susie Ellis, Executive Director of the International Rhino Foundation in a 2016 news release.

“This is the first such known poaching incident at a zoo. Criminal networks fairly recently began targeting museum specimens in Europe. Zoos, as living museums, now are also at risk. In response to the Paris rhino killing, we urge all zoological facilities to take serious measures to keep their rhinos safe.” 

Imagine the horror of zookeepers finding a rhino poached at a zoo. It has happened. (Public Domain Photo)

Terror Cells: It is believed major poaching syndicates are in league with terror groups using funds from rhino horns and ivory to help fund their activities. If you think dealing with poachers is bad, think about it being tied in with terrorists.

Assasinations: Lt-Col Leroy Bruwer, 49, a top rhino poaching ring investigator died in a hail of bullets in Mbombela on the R37 connecting Mbombela and Lydenburg March 18, 2020.

The people protecting rhinos and working for their conservation are doing incredible work and deserve our prayers and support both in awareness-raising and finances.

Chester Moore

Below are some groups doing great work for rhinos.

International Rhino Foundation

Hemmersbach Rhino Force

Ambassadors Of Conservation

Rhino 911

Sumatran Rhino Rescue

Rhinos of the forest Pt. 2

Few animals are as awe-inspiring as a rhinoceros.

The giant ungulates are truly wonders of Creation and are also among the planet’s most critically endangered animals.

In part 1 of our series we established that these animals are not only dwellers of savannah and desert but also inhabit forest and mountainous areas in Africa.

A white rhino sporting a big battle scar. (Public Domain Photo)

Africa has two species, the black and white (square-lipped) rhinoceros and of those two the black had the largest historical range.

That wide-ranging distribution included several now extinct subspecies including the western black rhinoceros which the International Union on the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) deemed extinct in 2011 after a search in heavily-forested Cameroon proved fruitless.

Black rhinos are browsers and prefer forest and semi-forested habitat that has plenty of woody plants to eat. (Public Domain Photo)

The eastern black rhino is often found in highland forest and like all rhinos will inhabit savannah as well.

Like all black rhinos, these are browsers which mean they prefer eating from bushes, trees and other woody vegetations whereas grazers eat grass and low vegetation. Forests offer ample grazing opportunties as well as cover.

That’s why account for exact black rhino numbers in forested nations is challenging. Helicopter, drone and airplane surveys are not as effective as they are on the savannahs.

White rhinos prefer open areas more than their darker-colored and smaller cousins but will spend time in forested areas, especially if they find a good mud hole or trees to use for a rubbing post. (To scractch that itch.)

A Sumatran rhino enjoying a nice meal in the forest. (Public Domain Photo)

Sumatran rhinos are even more critically endangered than their African cousins with fewer than 100 left in the wild according to Save The Rhino International (STI). These rhinos are the smallest of all but they are incredibly agile.

Sumatran rhinos can run fast and are very agile. They climb mountains easily and can negotiate very steep slopes and riverbanks. With the protection provided by the horns and rims of hard skin and cartilage on nose and head, they can easily break through the densest vegetation, leaving round tunnels

These Javan rhino is in even worse shape in terms of population wtih only single population of around 70 animals believed to exist in the wild. These animals which currently live in dense forest once had an incredible distribution according to STI.

Javan rhinos used to live in a variety of tropical landscapes, both lowland and highland, from the mangroves of the Sunderbans in India and Bangladesh, the mountains of southern China, to the sub-montane shrubs on the highest volcanoes of Java. The Javan rhino probably had a wider ecological range than either its larger relative, the greater one-horned rhino, or its compatriot, the Sumatran rhino.

The reason for this series is to give a look at overlooked aspects of African rhinos and their range and to bring awareness to those forest-dwellers in Asia that are far closer to extinction than even those in Africa.

A Javan rhino in the London Zoo. According to the San Diego Zoo there are no Javan rhinos presently in zoos. (Public Domain Photo)

For whatever reason they get almost no attention from the corporate wildlife media. This is our way of shining some light on a dark spot in wildlife conservation.

Before the modern era of conservation minded, sustainable hunting, Javan rhinos were slaughtered with no regard like this juvenile taken in 1895. (Public Domain Photo)

In the next and final article in the series we will examine an Asian rhino that is on the rebound and look at some conservation project that could radically change the trajectory of rhino populations in Africa for the better.

Chester Moore

Rhinos Of The Forest Pt. 1

Rhinoceros are some of the most iconic and endangered animals on the planet.

Facing outright slaughter by poachers seeking highly valuable horns for trade in the Asian traditional medicine market, they are animals of very special concern.

When thinking of rhinos it is hard not to imagine them in the open savanna or desert settings often depicted on television. And yes, those areas in southern Africa are crucial to both white and black rhinoceros and their subspecies.

Mother white rhino with calf
White rhino mother and calf. (Photo copyright Austin Stevens)

But did you know rhinos are also an animal of the forest and even the mountains? Or at least they were in many areas before poachers decimated them.

Black rhinos live in the montane forests of Kenya, an ecoregion that has several separate areas up to 2000 meters in elevation.

Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) in recent years has imported rhinos to once again inhabit their former range in the small, landlocked country that has a mix of forest, savanna, and mountains.

I first got an interest in learning more about rhinos in thicker forest habitat after watching an episode of my friend Austin Steven’s brilliant program Austin Stevens Adventures.

Austin_Stevens_Adventures (1)

In the episode In the Shadow of Armored Giants, he sought black and white rhinos in the Mkhaya game reserve in Eswatini. The scenes of him in some super thick forests approaching rhinos at an incredibly close distance was quite inspiring.

Black rhino in thorn bush thicket. South Africa
Black rhino with a wound from fighting another rhino. (Photo copyright Austin Stevens)

I reached out to Stevens to get some of his thoughts on his rhino encounters since his groundbreaking footage probably gave the best glimpse into rhinos I have ever seen on a television program.

I have been fortunate to observe the behavior of the two species found in Southern Africa, the so-called white rhino (more accurately, the square-lipped rhino) and the black rhino. Of the two, the black rhino is generally the slightly smaller, and known for its more aggressive nature. The white rhino, on the other hand, while of course also being potentially dangerous, has a far more subdued demure. Both are amazingly well camouflaged in natural bush and can be easily missed on a game drive, in spite of their size. If on foot in the bush, one encounters a white rhino, there is usually time and opportunity to slowly back away and avoid confrontation. Should one however, enter into close proximity with a black rhino, then basically it is already too late, and disaster might be the result.

As described in his latest book, Running Wild, Stevens experienced a close encounter with each of the species.

One saw me awakened each night in my tent as a white rhino stomped, pounded and pulverized, with great gusto, my entrance mat, rendering me terrified inside the flimsy walls of the tent. It seemed that my tent had unknowingly been erected within the rhino’s terrain. A lesson well learned.

The black rhino encounter was a little scarier.

As for my black rhino encounter, as is typical, I had no idea the animal was present until it charged out of the thicket and sent me scurrying for my life up a leaning tree, thankfully within reach. A few snorts and a few jabs at my feet, just out of reach, and the animal seemed to be satisfied that it had secured its territory, and it turned around and disappeared once more back into the thicket from which it had emerged. I was pretty shaken, and another lesson learned. All in a day’s work for a wildlife photographer.

I would never have considered some of the dense forest rhinos can inhabit if I had not seen Stevens episode and read his book. They inspired this series of articles and to look deeper into where rhinos used to roam.

As a photographer, rhinos are at the very top of my list of African game I would like to photograph.

Seeing them in the distant savannah and approaching in a Land Rover is one thing but to get close to them in a thick, forested setting is another.

In the next edition, we will look at some of the surprisingly high elevations rhinos can roam and look into what is happening with them in the more forested regions of west-central Africa.

And we will conclude the series with how innovative conservation measures are bringing hope for these armored giants.

(To purchase Austin Stevens latest book Running Wild click here.)

Chester Moore