Get to know the rhino

Get to know the rhino

  • Rhinoceros are a group of 5 surviving species of odd-toed hoofed animals (ungulates) in the family Rhinocerotidae
  • They are characterised by its size, large horn and a thick protective skin
  • They are herbivores (eat leafy plants and grass)
  • Africa is home to 2 of the 5 rhino species – white and black rhino
  • Black rhino are classified as Critically Endangered
  • White rhino are classified as Near Threatened
  • South Africa hosts more than 90% of the world’s white rhino and 30% of the black rhino
The White Rhinoceros

The White Rhinoceros

  • How many species:
    • two (2) subspecies:
      • the Southern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)
      • and the Northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni).
  • Numbers:
    • There are less than 20 000 of the southern subspecies left with a conservation status of Near Threatened.
    • The northern subspecies is critically endangered, with only 2 females remaining alive.
  • Size: NOTE: Diagram of a rhino with pointers
    • Can weigh more than 3 500 kg, have a head-and-body length of 3.5 to 4.6 m and a shoulder height of 1.8 to 2 m.
    • The biggest white rhinoceros on record was about 4 500 kg.
  • Age:  White rhino can live up to between 40 and 50 years in the wild.
  • Horns:
    • White rhino has two horns on its snout.
    • The front horn is larger than the other horn and averages between 90 cm and 150 cm.
  • Other features:
    • Yellowish brown to slate grey in colour.
    • Hair on ear fringes and tail bristles.
    • Distinctive flat broad mouth used for grazing.
  • Bet you didn’t know this!
    • An adult white rhino produces up to 50 kg of dung per day!
    • Pregnancy lasts 15 to 16 months
    • African rhinos have a mutually beneficial relationship with oxpeckers, also called “tick birds”
    • White rhino calves walk in front of their mothers.
The Black Rhinoceros

The Black Rhinoceros

  • How many species:
    • There were 4 subspecies, now there are 3:
      • South-central (Diceros bicornis minor) most common, live in southern  Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, northern and eastern South Africa;
      • South-western (Diceros bicornis bicornis) from the savannas of Namibia, Angola, Botswana and western South Africa;
      • East African (Diceros bicornis michaeli), mainly in Tanzania; and
      • West African (Diceros bicornis longipes) declared extinct in 2011.
  • Numbers:
    • Near the end of the 20th century, numbers were severely reduced from an estimated 70 000 in the late 1960s to only 2 410 in 1995.
  • Status:
    • Critically endangered
  • Size:
    • Adults stand at 1.50 to 1.75 m high at the shoulder and are 3.5 to 3.9 m in length.
    • An adult can weigh between 850 and 1 600 kg, sometimes even up to 1 800 kg.
    • Females are smaller than the males.
  • Age:
    • Black rhino can live up to between 40 and 50 years in the wild
  • Horns:
    • Two horns on the skull are made of keratin
    • Larger front horn typically 50 cm long, sometimes even up to 140 cm.
    • A third smaller horn can sometimes develop.
  • Other features:
    • The black rhino is much smaller than the white rhino
    • Has a hooked lip
    • Eats leaves and twigs
  • Bet you didn’t know this:
    • Black rhino are active both day and night, but are least active during the hottest parts of the day where they seek shade.
    • Pregnancy lasts about 15 months and they only have 1 calf.
    • Young rhinos can walk 10 minutes after they are born.  However, the mother will keep it hidden for a couple of weeks in fear that it may get trampled.
    • Black rhino calves walk behind their mothers.
Gentle Giants

Gentle Giants

White rhino are relatively placid grass eaters (herbivores). Because their eye sight isn’t very good, they cannot see further than about 15 meters, making them vulnerable. For this reason they feel threatened very easily and will charge at something that is a threat to them. If they don’t see you as a threat, then you can observe them in their natural environment grazing peacefully.

Black rhino are unfortunately not so easy to observe as they live in dense thick vegetation (eating leaves, twigs and fruit). Because their surroundings offer them protection, they are not able to see danger coming, which is why black rhino are known for their bad temper. But, this behaviour is also natural for them and ensures their safety.

Rhino Horn

Rhino Horn

What is rhino horn made of?

The horns consist of clumped hair or keratin, the same type of protein that makes up your hair and fingernails.

Rhinos use their horns for:

  • defending territories,
  • defending calves from other rhinos and predators,
  • maternal care (including guiding calves)
  • foraging behaviour, such as digging for water and breaking branches.
  • Male rhinos use their horns during disputes over territory or dominance