White Rhino

Two distinctive populations - northern and southern - are recognized, but the northern is now feared extinct, not having been seen in the wild since 2006.

The white rhino is among the rarest mammal species in the world. A little more than 150 years ago it was found across Africa from Sudan and Chad to northern South Africa. Today, however, only 400 individuals survive, and all of them live in reserves in eastern and southern Africa.

The reason for the white rhino’s demise is hunting. In recent times the rhinos were being hunted for their horn, which could be sold for a high price in China, where it is believed to be an aphrodisiac. The huge black-market price for rhino horn makes poaching an ever-present problem.

White rhinos are huge grazers with two horns on their snouts. The body is covered by a thick and almost hairless hide. The white rhino's characteristic square lip is used for plucking grasses.

White rhinos live in small groups. Each group never strays from a home range of about 8 sq km (3 sq miles). The groups are made up of females, while the dominant bulls live on their own but remain close to the females. Male white rhinos will use their horns for fighting, being territorial by nature, while females will defend their offspring in the same way. The bull will challenge another male that enters the home range. Such confrontations are generally stand-offs, with combatants making false charges and damaging plants with their horns. Fights are avoided because they involve a large risk of injury. These large herbivores have poor eyesight, relying mainly on their sense of smell.

Distribution: The northern subspecies occurred in parts of Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Central African Republic and DRC. The southern race occurs in Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Habitat: Areas of open woodland and tropical grassland.

Weight: 1800 - 2700 kg (4000 - 6000 lb); males are bigger.

Length: 3.3 - 4.2 m (10.8 - 13.8 ft); up to 185 cm (73 in) tall at the shoulder.

Maturity: Females 6 - 7 years; males 10 - 12 years.

Gestation Period: 16 - 18 months.

Breeding: 1; weaningoccurs at about 12 months.

Diet: Grazes on grasses and other low-growing plants on the plains.

Life span: 30 years in the wild but more than 40 when raised in captivity.

Status: Critically endangered.

Horns

There are two horns, with the front horn being the longest.

Colouration

The skin of white rhinoceroses is grey, and they have virtually no hair.

Mouth

This species is also known as the wide-lipped rhinoceros because of its wide mouth.

Toes

White rhinos are ungulates, with three toes on each foot.

WATER BABIES

Rhinoceroses wallow regularly in mud. This keeps their skin in good condition, protecting them from insects.

Rhinoceroses have very small eyes, but can swivel their ears to detect sounds well.

Gallery of White Rhino