There are three species of rhinoceros found in Asia.
The most populous is the One-horned Rhinoceros Rhinoceros unicornis, numbering around 2575 individuals in 2007. It is categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and is found across India and Nepal, with the majority of individuals in India; 70% reside in Kaziranga National Park alone. The species prefers riverine grassland habitats, but its range has become significantly restricted by the growth of human-dominated landscapes, while in recent years the species has been targeted by poachers for their horns.
The other two species of Asian rhino are both categorized by IUCN as Critically Endangered.
The Sumatran Rhinoceros Dicerorhinus sumatransis exists only in isolated areas of Indonesia and Malaysia, despite previously occurring across much of South-East Asia. It prefers hilly areas with nearby water sources, in addition to a tropical rainforest environment. Poaching and reduced population viability are the main threats to this species: currently fewer than 250 individuals are believed to exist.
The same concerns exist for the Javan Rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus, which numbers around 40–60 individuals living in Ujong Kulon National Park on the tip of Java, Indonesia. Until very recently a tiny population of a Vietnamese subspecies existed in Cat Tien National Park, Viet Nam, but the last individual there was found shot and dehorned in 2010.
In October 2011, the last Javan Rhinoceros in Viet Nam was shot and its horn removed, meaning rhinoceroses were confirmed extinct in Viet Nam.
There is a substantial market in Asia for rhino horn, particularly in Viet Nam, mainly for prestige use and to a lesser extent due to a belief in its supposed medicinal qualities.
Much of the poaching to supply demand occurs in Africa, where the majority of the world’s rhinos are found, but poaching is still a problem in Asia, particularly within Kaziranga National Park in north-eastern India, where media reported at least 10 rhinos were killed in the first four months of 2015. The cost is not just in lost animals: in the first five months of 2015, 11 rhino poachers were killed and 20 more arrested in separate incidents in the Park. In July 2015 two sniffer dogs, trained under a TRAFFIC-supported detector dog programme, were deployed in Kaziranga National Park. They joined a sniffer dog already operating there, whose activities have already resulted in around 10 rhino-related arrests.
In Nepal, government-led conservation efforts have been highly successful in protecting the One-horned Rhinoceros. From only 65 animals in Nepal in the 1960s, numbers had increased to more than 500 by 2011. In recent years, Nepal has experienced three consecutive 12 month periods when zero poaching of rhinos was recorded—an extraordinary achievement which demonstrates a clear commitment to a comprehensive conservation plan. 2011 was the first zero-rhino poaching year in 20 years for Nepal. The success was largely as a result of the significant effort of the security forces in arresting over 250 poachers in the eighteen-month preceding period. In October 2013, the Nepalese authorities arrested 14 people in connection with rhino poaching and jailed one man for 15 years after his conviction for rhino poaching.
More on the demand for rhino horn from Asia and the trafficking of horn from Africa to Asia can be found here.