Nature’s Biggest Comebacks

Southern White Rhino

Our scientists have chosen the top 10 comeback stories in nature. These are the places, ecosystems and species that have been brought back from the brink of disaster. See what made the cut from the last century – and what we hope will be on our list in the next.

Southern White Rhino

At 3,000 to 8,000 pounds, white rhinos are the largest animals on land behind elephants. Considering their venerable size and strength, it’s hard to imagine a creature that could topple them.

Enter humans.

Their story is much like that of the American bison. They once grazed huge swaths of grassland, but were decimated by widespread hunting during the 19th century.

By the late 1800s, the southern white rhino was on the verge of extinction — numbers were estimated to be as low as 50 to 200. Today, thanks to decades of work by conservationists and researchers, their numbers are above 20,000 and the southern white is considered the most abundant rhino in the world.

While they do live in the wild, their habitat is restricted to protected areas, parks and game reserves in southern Africa. And poaching for their horns remains a grave risk for the southern white rhino.

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