The rhinoceros is a large, primitive-looking mammal that in fact dates from the Miocene era millions of years ago. In recent decades rhinos have been relentlessly hunted to the point of near extinction. Since 1970 the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent, with five species remaining in the world today, all of which are endangered. The white or square-lipped rhino is one of two rhino species in Africa. It in turn occurs as two subspecies, the southern and the northern. The southern dwindled almost to extinction in the early 20th century, but was protected on farms and reserves, enabling it to increase enough to be reintroduced. The northern white rhino has recovered in Democratic Republic of Congo from about 15 in 1984 to about 30 in the late 1990s. This population, however, has recently been severely threatened by political conflict and instability. There are five species of rhinoceros, the black rhinoceros, the Indian rhinoceros, the Sumatran rhinoceros and the Javan rhinoceros.
The white rhino’s name derives from the Dutch “weit”, meaning wide, are reference to its wide, square muzzle adapted for grazing. The white rhino, which is actually gray, has a pronounced hump on the neck and a long face. The black, or hooked-lipped, rhino, along with all other rhino species, is an odd-toed ungulate (three toes on each foot). It has a thick hairless, gray hide. Both the black and white rhino have two horns, the longer of which sits at the front of the nose. Black rhinos have various habitats, but mainly areas with dense, woody vegetation. White rhino’s live in Savannas with water holes, mud wallows and shade trees. Their life shade is of 35 to 40 span years.
The black rhino is usually solitary. The white rhino tends to be much more social. Rhinos are also rather ill-tempered. Their eyesight is poor but their sense of smell and hearing are very good. They have an extended “vocabulary” of growls, grunts, squeaks, snorts, breaks into a gallop reaching speeds of 30 miles an hour, and gores or strikes powerful blows with its horns.
The rhino has a symbiotic relationship with oxpeckers, also called tick birds (the rhino’s guard). The bird eats ticks it finds on the rhino and noisily warns of danger. Although the birds also eat blood from sores on the rhino’s skin and thus obstruct healing, they are still tolerated.
The black rhino is a browser, with a triangular-shaped upper lip ending in a mobile grasping point. It eats a large variety of vegetation, including leaves, buds and shoots of plants, bushes and trees. The white rhino, on the other hand, is a grazer feeding on grasses.
The rhinoceros Beetle is aptly named because it has horns on its head, very much like the rhinoceros does. Using its horns it can dig its way out of a sticky situation by burying itself underground, escaping danger.
Rhino beetles could be considered helpful because they are important in recycling plant material back into the ecosystem.
It has a 20 centimetre extendable nose like an elephant’s trunk. The body is fat with small eyes and oval shaped ears like a pig. The tail is short like that of a bear.
Ride of facts
The rhino’s horns (used in traditional medicine and ornamental carvings) is made of thickly matted hair that grows from the skull without skeletal support where it is.
Rhinos are more active during the night and early morning than throughout the day.
A rhinoceros can sleep either standing or lying down.
The skin of a rhinoceros is actually quite sensitive particularly to sunburn and insect bites.
A rhinoceros can survive four to five days without water.
A group of rhinos is referred to as a crash.
The females are very attentive mother’s. They look after their young for years, protecting them from enemies and teaching them how to survive independently.