On World Rhino Day, We Pay Tribute To A Threatened Species

Video highlights from Rhino Orphanage

Can this remarkable animal be saved?

Today (23 September) is World Rhino Day. Founded in 2010 by WWF-South Africa, the day has grown into an "international success," with events worldwide bringing attention the plight of the rare animals.

All five species of rhinos are threatened by poaching, and three of them are critically endangered.

A black market, especially in Vietnam, for rhino horn, valued for supposed healing properties and as a symbol of status, has fuelled the killing of rhinos for years.

A captive Sumatran rhinoceros rests at the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio. This critically endangered species has declined in numbers by more than 80 percent in just three generations due to poaching pressure, and further declines are expected [Image: Robert Clark, National Geographic Creative]

South Africa, home to 83 percent of the roughly 26,000 rhinos left in Africa, sees the most intense poaching on the continent, with most of it happening in Kruger National Park.

In 2013, a record 1,004 rhinos were killed in South Africa, a hundredfold increase since 2006, when just 10 were killed. Already this year, the country has seen 769 rhinos killed for their horns.

Blindfolded and tranquilized, a black rhino is airlifted in a ten-minute helicopter ride from South Africa's Eastern Cape Province to a waiting truck that will deliver it to a new home some 1,400 kilometres away [Image: Green Renaissance, WWF]

"Our country's proud conservation record, established more than 50 years ago when we brought the white rhino back from the brink of extinction, is being threatened," Barbara Thomson, South Africa's deputy minister of environmental affairs, said in a September 22 speech near Kruger National Park.

Dehorned to deter poachers, a tame northern white rhino, one of only seven of the subspecies known to survive, grazes under the watch of rangers from Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy [Image: Brent Stirton, Reportage For WWF, National Geographic]

Populations of Africa's black rhino and white rhino species have shown steady increases between 1991 and 2007, but experts fear that intense poaching will undo those gains.

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