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The Southern white rhinoceros is one of five remaining species of rhinoceros (two African species and three Asian species) alive today. Southern white rhinos are currently listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN with approximately 20,000 animals remaining worldwide. Their survival is a portrait of conservation success as their numbers were less than 100 in 1895. Unfortunately, the only other surviving subspecies of white rhino, the Northern white rhinoceros, is currently near extinction with an unsustainable wild population of only four animals.

 Other rhino species are also in serious decline; the Sumatran rhino population stands at around 100 animals and the Javan rhino at only around 40. Poaching and habitat loss are the two biggest threats to these animals.

Rhinoceros are among the biggest land animals on the planet. White rhinos are semi-social and spend a majority of their day grazing on savanna grasses. The name “white” rhino does not indicate their skin color, but comes from a misinterpretation of a term that means “wide.” Their name actually means “wide-mouth” rhino in Afrikaans.

The Phoenix Zoo currently houses one Southern white rhino female. Guests visiting the Zoo may be inspired to learn more about the future rhinos face without conservation support. Poaching of rhino in Africa has increased 3,346% since 2007. The illegal poaching and sale of rhino horn has increased due to false beliefs that rhino horn cures everything from cancer to hangovers. Rhino horn is actually made of keratin, the same substance as hair and fingernails, and confers no significant medical benefits. The Phoenix Zoo supports multiple rhino conservation efforts by raising funds to support programs in Africa and Asia. In 2013, the Phoenix Zoo Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers raised more than $10,000 with their annual Bowling for Rhinos event.  The funds go directly to support programs that conserve rhinos through education, community support and wild population protection.  In addition, the Zoo’s Conservation & Science Grants Program has supported several projects related to rhinoceros conservation since the program began in 2009.

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