The black rhino is an imposing, aggressive species of mammal that forms part of Africa's Big Five.
Black rhinos are a darker grey color, with a more muscular, stockier build and slightly larger horns but smaller bodies and overall size when compared to to white rhinos. Their average weight ranges from 1 – 1,35 tonnes (2200 – 2980 lb) for males of the species, while females are roughly the same size, between 900kg and 1,25 tonnes (1985 – 2755lb). They have two horns, with the front horn considerably larger than the hind horn. They are easily distinguished from white rhinos by their hooked or sharp-shaped lips, which are used to browse, rather than the flat lips of white rhinos that are used for grazing.
Black rhinos were once widely spread throughout Africa and even parts of Arabia and Asia. In Southern Africa, they can only be found within the Kruger National Park, parts of Namibia and national parks in the KwaZulu-Natal Province; most notably Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. Elsewhere, they can be found in localized areas of central rain forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and Sudan and on the outskirts of the barren areas of the Sahara Desert that few herbivores of that size would be able to live off of.
These herbivores were once the most prolific of all the rhino species, but have fallen victim to the evils of humans over the past 30 or so years. Their population has steadily declined over the past few decades, with a more severe plummet since 2001 due to poaching and the illegal rhino horn trade that takes place between Africa and Asia. Each year for the past three years, close to 1 000 rhinos have been killed due to poaching, with the majority being black rhinos because of their superior sized horns. Evidence has shown that all this species need to turn around their path toward extinction is protection. Parks in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa have had steady growth amongst their black rhino populations - the same parks which helped perform the a miracle for the white rhino population years ago.
Black rhinos adapt well to any habitat with lots of woody plants such as trees and large bushes, simply because they solely browse and thus eat only leaves and fruit for nutrition. Any forest or dense woodland area is a perfect living environment for the black rhino. This is partly why they still have populations in the rain forests of the Congo. They have preferences for certain shrubs that they like to eat, but are able to consume over 200 species of plants, making them very diverse browsers and more adaptive to different environments.
Females usually form small herds with home ranges in which they roam, while some males are solitary and territorial. Black rhinos seem more solitary than they actually are because of their small population, and are actually similarly organized to white rhinos. Mothers and calves usually live apart from a herd, but juvenile male or female rhinos rejected by their own parents have been recorded living with such a mother and calf if the mother is willing to allow it. Rhinos usually socialize or meet up at water holes or dams and then go their separate ways.
Their daily lives rarely consist of any other goals than survival, meaning that they mostly just eat or find food and sleep. They are most active early in the day and late in the afternoon, like the majority of herbivores. They enjoy mud baths and rubbing their backs against big trees which both help them to maintain healthy skins. Males may battle over territory by using their long horns, or when there is a mate to be won over. Male black rhinos mark their territories by spraying urine or feces at the edges of their respective territories.
Black rhinos reproduce at any time of the year when both sexes are willing. A male usually approaches a female nudging or charging at her and then spraying urine or calling out to her. Her response usually seems quite violent as she attacks him or squeals. A male detects that a female is ready to mate by her urine and the scent that she leaves behind. Male rhinos reach sexual maturity in the region of 10 years and females around 7 years. After they have successfully bred, the rhino cow will give birth to a single calf some 15 – 16 months later.
When threatened by predators, black rhinos usually snort, puff or act like they are going to charge at them. When they have calves with them, these rhinos will act more drastically and impulsively, charging rather than giving any warning signs or sounds. Black rhinos usually are not bothered by predators because of their size, but lions may threaten calves when desperate. In situations like this, the lion may be the one fatally injured in the end because of the aggressive nature of these rhinos. Poachers pose the greatest threat to black rhinos, and unfortunately these big beasts are no match for the large rifles poachers carry with them.
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