African Rhino Information
The name rhinoceros is derived from the Greek word rhinokerōs, meaning “nose-horned”, although commonly abbreviated to rhino. There are now only five extant species of rhino left, two of the extant species are native to Africa and three to Southern Asia.
African Rhino Species
Rhinos are some of the largest remaining megafauna, with the species growing to reach or exceed one tonne in weight. The African rhino species have two horns with a thick protective skin. They are herbivores, eating either grass (mainly the white rhino) or trees and bushes (mainly the black rhino) but unlike other animals that live in the same habitat, the two African species of rhinoceros lack teeth at the front of their mouths and instead rely on their lips to pluck food.
This species of rhino is not called a ‘white rhinoceros’ due to their colouring lime many assume - the name is derived from a distortion of the Afrikaans word ‘wyd’ or Dutch word ‘wijd’ which means ‘wide’ and refers to the square lips that the mammal uses to graze on grass.
There are two subspecies of white rhinoceros:
Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) - This species is critically endangered, and the last known male Northern White Rhino, Sudan, died in March 2018. To our knowledge, there are only two females left and round-the-clock armed guards protect them.
Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) - This species has a wild population of between 19,000 - 21,085, making them the least endangered rhino subspecies in the world.
Weight: Males are between 1,800 and 2,500kg and Females are between 1,800 and 2,000kg.
Shoulder Height: Between 1.5m and 2m.
Horn: Two horns, the front horn is generally 35 - 150cm long and is larger than the second horn.
This species is called a ‘black rhinoceros’ to distinguish it from the white rhinoceros. The two species are not generally distinguishable by colour but by their size and shape of their mouth. The white rhino is larger than the black rhino and has a square lip. The black rhino has a more pointed mouth, which it uses to grasp leaves and twigs to feed.
There are four subspecies of black rhinoceros:
South-Central Rhino (Diceros bicornis minor) - This subspecies has the highest numbers of the black rhino species and can be found across central Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, through to northern and eastern South Africa.
Southwestern Rhino (Diceros bicornis occidentalis) - This subspecies has adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana and western South Africa.
East African Rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) - This subspecies is mainly found in Tanzania.
West African Rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) - Unfortunately this subspecies was declared extinct in November 2011.
Weight: Between 850 and 1,800kg with the females being slightly smaller than the males.
Shoulder Height: Between 1.5 to 1.75m.
Horn: Two horns, the front horn is generally 50 - 140cm long and is larger than the second horn.
Predators, poaching and hunting
Adult rhinos do not have any specific predator in the wild other than humans. Young rhinos or calves do have predators due to their size, and these are mainly big cats, crocodiles, African wild dogs and hyenas.
One of the reasons a rhinos horn is poached is because when the horn is carved and polished, the horn takes on a translucence and lustre, which increase as the object ages. Another reason is that they are ground up and used within traditional medicines in the Far East, where some users believe in its (unproven) ability to cure diseases and illnesses — it is even used as a hangover cure and an aphrodisiac. In Asia and Yemen, the horn is commonly used for dagger handles, which are presented to young boys reaching manhood. The Vietnamese are currently the biggest consumers of rhino horn, and their demand drives most of the poaching, which has risen to record levels.
Why African Rhinos are so Important
Rhinos are an important part of their local habitat because they help shape the African landscape by eating grass and other vegetation, which keeps a healthy balance within the ecosystem for the benefit of several other animals. Many local people and communities use the land to grow natural resources for food, fuel and income. They can also rely on the ecotourism that these iconic creatures bring to the area as one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’.
We’re protecting the rhino to ensure that the magnificent creature continues to roam the earth not just during our lifetime, but for generations to come.