Conversation efforts have seen gradual population increases after a long and devastating period of hunting and poaching. Even so, black rhinos are still critically endangered, with a popular demand for their horns.
Black rhinos were once found throughout sub-Saharan Africa with the exception of the Congo Basin.
However, relentless hunting by European settlers saw their numbers and distribution quickly decline. By the end of the 1960s, they had disappeared or mostly disappeared from a number of countries, with an estimated 70,000 surviving on the continent.
The poaching epidemic that started in the early 1970s effectively eliminated most black rhinos living outside conservation areas, and severely reduced numbers in national parks and reserves.
In 1981 only 10,000-15,000 remained, and since 1980 the species has probably disappeared from Angola, Botswana, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, and Zambia.
European hunters were responsible for early declines. Finding rhinos easy prey, there are common accounts of killing five or six in a day, to be eaten or simply for amusement.
European settlers, arriving in the early 20th century to colonize and establish farms and plantations, continued this senseless slaughter: most regarded rhinos as vermin, to be exterminated at all costs.