Africa’s Black Rhino Population Numbers Double

Africa’s black rhino population has more than doubled since the 1990s. Could we finally be seeing a payoff to decades of committed rhino conservation?

According to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the black rhino population has risen from 2 500 in the mid-nineties to just over 5 600 today.

The increase in black rhino population is due to the commitment and passion of both private rhino conservationists and government input. WWF’s Black Rhino Range Expansion Project (BRREP) has also played a significant and vital role. The project has collaborated with private and community landowners to extend the range of black rhinos and their breeding capacity.

Thanks to BRREP, 13 separate black rhino populations have been created on more than 300 000 hectares of land. The populations are created by painstakingly selecting individuals and moving 25 at a time to new locations where viable breeding populations can thrive. This, together with stronger law enforcement and action against poaching, has led to vastly improved black rhino numbers.

In the late 1800s, about 850 000 black rhinos existed in Africa. But, due to unregulated killing by settlers and hunters, only 100 000 remained by 1960. By 1995, just 2410 black rhinos remained on the continent.

black rhino

Since then, they have been classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN. Of the four subspecies, the western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011.


Despite white rhino populations worsening in recent years, due to high levels of poaching, they remain more numerous than black rhinos. Now classified as ‘near-threatened’, their numbers are roughly 18 000 left in Africa, while black rhino numbers are approximately 5600 remaining.

Over the last few years, although still widespread, the numbers of poached rhinos have declined in Africa. Since its peak in 2015 when 1349 rhinos were poached, poaching numbers have dropped, with the latest total of 769 recorded in 2018. This indicates that government and private anti-poaching measures appear to be working. But it also suggests that due to the greatly diminished numbers of rhinos overall, it is becoming more difficult for poachers to find and kill them.

 black rhinos eating


Given the extensive security measures that go with keeping rhinos, the costs of the upkeep have risen sharply in the last decade, while live prices have fallen. This has sadly reduced the incentive for many private landowners and communities to keep rhinos. However, at least 50% of white rhinos and 40% of black rhino live on private reserves. For this reason, the long-term survival of rhinos will not be possible without the dedication and funding of private conservationists and rhino breeders.

Despite the increase in black rhino numbers, the species’ survival is still uncertain, and the danger that the population could slip into a negative growth rate. To ensure that numbers don’t drop, funding, as well as large areas of land, will need to be secured for future populations. This is only possible through wildlife tourism, trophy hunting and donations to the rhino conservation cause.

For now, however, Africa’s black rhinos are on the road to recovery.

baby black rhino


There is no colour difference between the black and the white rhino species.

Black rhinos…                                          

  • are smaller than white rhinos, standing a 1.6m
  • are browsers with pointy lips to help them feed on leaves from bushes and trees
  • have two horns and occasionally develop a third, small posterior horn
  • prefer woodlands, forest, semi-desert savanna and wetlands.
  • are solitary, territorial, and known to be aggressive.
  • are native to East and Southern Africa. But today they are extinct in many of their historic range areas.

White rhinos…

  • are the largest of the rhino species, standing at 1.8m
  • are grazers with a wide flat mouth to help them eat grass.
  • have two horns, the anterior being larger than the posterior.
  • prefer long and short grass savanna areas
  • are semi-social, sedentary, and territorial.
  • are native to Southern Africa. Found mostly in South Africa. But today they are extinct in many of their historic range areas.

At Rockwood, we focus our rhino conservation on the Southern white rhino.
To help safeguard this species please support our conservation programme. 

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