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NATURE: Rhinoceros

Airs Sunday, August 22, 2010 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Photo of an Indian rhino and calf. This program looks at efforts in South Africa, India and Indonesia to protect the planet's five remaining rhino species from poachers and relocate them to new habitats. The episode also covers American efforts to breed rhinos in captivity. Shown: An Indian one-horned rhinoceros and her calf graze in Kaziranga National Park in northeast India.

Photo of two Sumatran rhinos. The rare and elusive Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest and most agile of the world's five rhino species, but poachers have pushed them to the brink of extinction.
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Above: Photo of two Sumatran rhinos. The rare and elusive Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest and most agile of the world's five rhino species, but poachers have pushed them to the brink of extinction.

They are hulking beasts from prehistory, virtually unchanged over 25 million years. Once they roamed the Earth in millions, numbering hundreds of species of all shapes and sizes; today, the rhinoceros is one of the planet's rarest animals, with three of the remaining five species on the brink of extinction.

"Nature: Rhinoceros" trails rangers through the savannahs of South Africa, the grasslands of India and the jungles of Indonesia, and visits rhino fertility experts at an American zoo, detailing efforts to protect rhinos from poachers, relocate them to new habitats and breed them in captivity.

Along the way, the program offers fascinating close-up scenes of the pachyderms in their natural habitats, from a pulse-quickening charge by a black rhino to an Indian one-horned rhino nursery full of mothers and calves, and much more.

Watch video of filmmaker Nigel Marven as he has to make a quick escape after a mother rhino with a calf begins to charge.

Video

Video Excerpt: Cutting Edge Science Saves Rhinos

Above: Millions of rhinos once roamed the Earth. There were hundreds of species of all shapes and sizes. But today, the rhinoceros is one of the planet's rarest animals, with three of its species on the brink of extinction. The program follows a team of experts who are working to protect rhinos from poachers -- relocating them to better habitats and breeding them in captivity. In this clip, scientists are creating a database of "chemical fingerprints" of rhino horns, which they hope will help law enforcement agencies identify and shut down poachers' trade routes.