There are five species of rhino - the black and the white rhino are found in Africa. (There is also the Sumatran, the Javan and the Great One Horned rhino which are all native to Asia.) The white rhino is the most populace with around 20,000 in Africa.
At the current rate of decline and the rise in poaching for rhino horn, rhino will be extinct within the next 10 years.
Black and White
The black rhino is divided into the south central black rhino, the eastern black rhino, the south western black rhino, and sadly the western black rhino has been extinct since 2011. There are fewer than 5,000 black rhino left in Africa. The white rhino is divided into the southern white and the northern white. The northern white is sadly virtually extinct with only three remaining on Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy, protected by armed guards. You can find out more about the plight of the northern whites here. The southern white is thankfully more robust with a population of around 20,000 in southern Africa, namely Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland.
Meet Ringo, an orphan rhino calf who was rescued by the Ol Pejeta Conservancy at just 2 weeks old.
Telling them apart
The mouth - the black rhino is smaller overall with a hook lip and lighter head to help them reach up high and browse on bushes. The white rhino, on the other hand is a grazer with a square lip and a far heavier, larger head suited to sweeping across the grassy plains.
Size - black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos, and have less of a pronounced hump on the back of their necks and a smaller head. This helps them eat from bushes or trees, requiring less muscle strength around their necks than the larger headed white rhinos who graze on grasses. Both rhinos have two horns made from hair-like strands of keratin and these grow continually. They are different shapes depending on the gender of the rhino and the area they come from. Wai Wai, a female rhino living at the Lewa/Borana Conservancy in Laikipia Kenya has a spectacular horn. Wai Wai has been a star mother, raising several calves successfully on the conservancy.
Location and habitat
Black rhino occur throughout southern and eastern Africa, including: Kenya,, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They live in a wide range of habitats including: semi-desert savannah, woodlands, forests and wetlands where there is a good supply of shrubs and plants, water and mineral licks. They are pretty solitary animals although they can group together around water sources or salt licks.
White rhinos live in southern Africa in small populations in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland. The main population (90%) of white rhino live in South Africa,. They are unlike the black rhino in that they graze on grasses in the savannah. Both species can survive quite arid conditions and go days between taking on water which allows them the freedom to roam looking for good grazing.
Did you know that the rhino is the second-largest land animal after the elephant? Despite their poor eyesight and their bulky size the rhino can move surprisingly fast, and have been recorded at top speeds of 55 km/h (30mph) - you can never outrun one! They can change direction very quickly and can bulldoze their way right through scrub and bushes. Rhinos famously have very bad eyesight and they cannot see more than 30 metres away. They do, however have an excellent sense of smell and hearing. Scent marking is used as a form of communication with other rhinos. They are also very vocal animals and they can produce a wide range of sounds used for mating, displaying a threat and to convey a situation of distress. Rhinos tend to live up to about 30 years in the wild. There are more females than males as the male mortality rate is higher. Calves are born after 16 months gestation and usually weigh around 40 kilos and wean during their first year. They stay with their mother until they are around 4 years old. Interestingly these enormous creatures also have a curious symbiotic relationship with a tiny bird. Red and yellow-billed ox-peckers are often seen with rhino and benefit them by removing ticks and clearing parasites from any open wounds, and also by raising the alarm if there is any danger approaching.
Rhinos are one of the most endangered animals on the planet due to a poaching epidemic which has recently got much worse. There is a long history of rhino poaching from the hundreds of thousands in the 19th century to the estimated 5000 black rhinos and over 20,000 white rhinos today. Some types of rhino have become extinct in the last few years including the western black rhino and the northern white rhino. One rhino a day is being killed in South Africa alone meaning that it will take less than a decade for all rhinos to be extinct. The reason behind this terrible statistic is that rhino horn is now worth more in weight than gold. Rhino horn is massively in demand in the Far East particularly in China and Vietnam and also in the Middle East for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Conservation programmes are working hard to combat this trade with education programmes being carried out in the East and armed gamekeepers and soldiers working hard to combat the poachers in Africa. It is a very hard battle to win with the money involved being so high and the area that has to be protected so huge. Other programmes such as removing the horn although effective are not always popular amongst different conservationists.
Where to see the rhino
Here at Real Africa we heartily support conservation efforts to protect this wonderful beast and we work with a number of conservation charities closely. Many of the safari lodges and camps we work with are also keen conservationists and do a lot of valuable work in this area. Tourism is a big weapon in the battle against poaching as the income brought by tourists who come to see the rhino encourages the local community to protect them. It also helps spread the love – our clients often return home with a new found admiration for these wonderful creatures and become more involved with the charities back in the UK. Some of the safari lodges and camps that support conservation and are also some of the best places to see rhinos include: Borana Lodge, (Laikipia) , Lewa Wilderness, (Lewa Conservancy, Laikipia), and Sweetwaters, (Ol Pejeta Reserve) and other lodges and camps around the shores of Lake Nakuru such as Flamingo Hill Camp, - all in Kenya. You can also track rhino on foot in Zimbabwe in Matusadona National Park where there is a Rhino Intensive Protection Zone.
What can you do to help?
You can also support many of the wonderful charities who are working hard to protect the rhino including our partner Save the Rhino,
Trivia fact: a group of rhinoceroses is known as a crash. That could be the fact that wins you the pub quiz this year!
To watch a video of rhinos, taken by our staff and guides, on our Real Africa YouTube channel, please Click here.
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