The resilience of rhinos: Photos capture the world's real-life unicorns

Most of us have seen the internet meme that says "rhinos are just fat unicorns." It's actually a fitting description for an animal whose horn some cultures believe has magical properties. It's because of this, however, that rhinos may too become the stuff of legend.

In the 1800s, there were hundreds of thousands of rhinoceroses in Africa alone. Today, there are less than 30,000 worldwide, with two species classified as "critically endangered." According to a recent special investigation by National Geographic in South Africa, where 70% of the total rhino population resides, the death rate from poaching has increased exponentially in the last few years. In 2007, the country reported 13 rhinos killed; in 2015, it was 1,175.

The demand for rhino horn and the greed of those who will kill to supply it could lead to their extinction within our lifetime.

For World Rhino Day on Sept. 22, wildlife photographers celebrate these magnificent creatures with photos captured in Africa and Asia, and applaud those who fight tirelessly for their survival.

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World Rhino Day

White rhinoceros in early morning sunshine in South Africa.

(Photo by Rebecca Yale via Getty Images)

A white rhino and her baby head towards home after a long day of grazing in Nakuru.

(Photo by Chris Minihane via Getty Images)

A rhino runs in Tanzania.

(Photo by Kenneth Whitten / Design Pics via Getty Images)

A black rhinoceros in Kenya.

(Photo by Joseph Van Os via Getty Images)

Portrait of a Southern White Rhino on a black background

(Photo by David Gn Photography via Getty Images)

A White Rhino with calf

(Photo by Heinrich van den Berg via Getty Images)

Kruger National Park, South Africa.

(Photo by Chiara Salvadori via Getty Images)

Towards mid day, white rhinos gather around the shade of an acacia tree to slumber, Solio Ranch, Kenya.

(Photo by Nigel Pavitt via Getty Images)

Black rhino, Diceros bicornis, and giraffe, Giraffa camelopardalis, drinking at waterhole, Etosha National Park, Namibia

(Photo by Mint Images - Frans Lanting via Getty Images)

Close up of rhinoceros, Cabarceno, Spain.

(Photo via Getty Images)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) grazing with calf, Timbavati Game Reserve, Mpumalanga Province

(Photo by Gallo Images - George Brits via Getty Images)

White rhino pair drinking

(Photo by Heinrich van den Berg via Getty Images)

Rhino in front of the city of Nairobi, Nairobi National park, Kenya, Africa

(Photo by Verónica Paradinas Duro via Getty Images)

Kenya, Masai Mara National Reserve, black rhino (Diceros bicornis), at dawn

(Photo via Getty Images)

High angle view of a rhinoceros in water, Africa

(Photo via Getty Images)

A rhino in Tanzania

(Photo by Eric Meola via Getty Images)

Black Rhinoceros or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), at illuminated Waterhole, Camp Halali, Etosha National Park, Namibia

(Photo by Juergen Ritterbach via Getty Images)

Rhino Mother & Baby. Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania. Africa

(Photo by Michael Fairchild via Getty Images)

Black rhinoceros or hook-lipped rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) female with baby

(Photo by Michael Leach via Getty Images)

Black Rhinoceros Portrait

(Photo by James Gritz via Getty Images)

Great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis), Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India

(Photo by James Warwick via Getty Images)


If you want to support rhino conservation, the following organizations could use your help.

Rhinos Without Borders

Two years ago, award-winning wildlife filmmakers and Great Plains Conservation founders Beverly and Dereck Joubert teamed up with &Beyond, a prominent experiential travel company, to launch Rhinos without Borders. It's an initiative pledging to airlift 100 rhinos out of South Africa, where poaching is at an all-time high, to undisclosed locations in Botswana, where stiff laws provide protection. The costs for flying a multi-ton animal to another country, however, are considerable. Each rhino requires an investment of $45,000 USD to cover vets, vehicles, planes, security and monitoring -- just a few of the many elements required to make translocation a success. To date, 25 rhinos have been moved to their new homes. The team hopes to make it a total of 50 by the first half of 2017.


Based in the United Kingdom, Tusk is relatively unknown in the United States but worthy of attention. For the last 25 years, the organization has made great strides in "conservation, community development and environmental education programs across Africa." Patronized by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the organization works with local communities to protect rhinos by funding surveillance and monitoring teams, training and employment for anti-poaching units, translocation from areas of high risk to safer habitats, and investment in the backup of tracker dogs, vehicles and aircraft.

World Wildlife Fund

The World Wildlife Fund has been working to save endangered animals in more than 100 countries for 50 years. Donating to its Adopt a Rhino program is one way you can make a difference -- and give a gift at the same time. A $25 African Rhino Adoption Kit gets your loved one a formal adoption certificate, a 5-by-7 color photo, a rhino spotlight card with great species fun facts, a personalized acknowledgment letter and free priority shipping. Larger adoption packages ($55, $100, $250) contain other goodies, including adorable rhino plush dolls in varying sizes.

Save the Rhino

While many rhino conservation programs concentrate on initiatives in Africa, Save the Rhino's mission is to see "all five rhino species thriving in the wild for future generations." Like Tusk, Save the Rhino works with partners to fund initiatives in Africa and Asia, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, India and Indonesia. In Vietnam, a strong market for rhino horn, one program focuses on getting major influencers to participate in campaigns to inspire a reduction in consumer demand.

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