White Rhinoceros

White Rhinoceros

Mammalia

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: white rhinoceros, square-lipped rhino
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Perissodactyla
FAMILY: Rhinocerotidae
GENUS SPECIES: Ceratotherium (horn shaped) simum (snub-nosed)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Large stocky animal, naturally grey in color, two facial horns and wide, squared lips
SIZE: 1.7-1.9 m (5.5-6.25 ft.) tall at shoulder; 3.25-4.25 m long (10.75-14 ft.)
WEIGHT: 1600-2260 kg (3500-5000 lb.); females are smaller
DIET: Herbivore that eats short grasses
GESTATION: 16 months
SEXUAL MATURITY:
MALE 10-12 years
FEMALE 4-6 years
LIFE SPAN: 25-45 years
RANGE: Eastern and southern Africa; northern savannahs of central Africa (rare subspecies)
HABITAT: Open savannahs and grasslands
POPULATION: GLOBAL Unknown
STATUS: IUCN Not listed
CITES Not listed
USFWS Endangered

FUN FACTS

1. A rhino's horn is not a true horn that is attached to the skull. It grows from the skin and is made up of keratin fibers, the same material found in hair and nails.
2. The white rhino has a wide squared off lip that allows it to eat a wide swath of the green, short grasses that grow in the open savannahs.
3. Unlike other rhino species, the white rhino is semi-gregarious; the females and sub-adults are rarely alone. The dominant male patrols the territory that the females and young pass through. Females in managed situations will reproduce better if they are in a group.
4. During the European exploration of Africa, the white rhino was actually less numerous than the black rhino. In recent history the black rhino populations have been heavily poached to alarmingly low levels. Today, because of careful management in the Republic of South Africa, the white rhino population has increased dramatically. South Africa has approximately 80% of the world's population of white rhinos.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

The white rhino is one of the largest pure grazers alive, making them an integral aspect of the southern African grasslands. Seed dispersal and the hindering of woody plant encroachment are important parts of their role in the grasslands.

People of some cultures believe that rhino horn contains medicinal or curative properties. The medical aspects are not proven but are still the primary reason for the poaching of the species. Because of education and awareness to the plight of the rhino many things are being done with varying degrees of success. Some of the conservation measures that have been attempted by some range countries are increased patrols by rangers, a shoot on sight policy for poaching, a dehorning program for rhinos, and the relocation of rhinos to safer areas.

Economic sanctions, or the threat of such, against countries that continue to consume rhino horn have had the greatest impact in their regulatory policies. Many of these countries have increased jail time and amounts of fines for those involved in the illegal trade in rhino horn.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Estes, Richard D. The Safari Companion. Post Mills, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 1993.

MacDonald, David. The Encyclopedia of Mammals:2. London: George Allen & Unwin Co., 1985.

Martin, Esmond and Chryssee Bradley. Run Rhino Run. London: Chatto and Windus, 1982.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Fifth edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.