White Rhino

The imposing white rhino photographed on safari.

The white rhino is larger than his black cousin, with flat, square-shaped lips and a lighter shade of grey.

Name:
White Rhino
Scientific Name:
Ceratotherium simum
Weight
2150Kg (M) 1500Kg (f)
Shoulder Height:
180cm (M) 160cm (F)
Mating Season:
Throughout the year

Description

White rhinos are the biggest members of the rhinoceros family and the second largest land mammals, only behind the African Elephant. They are easily distinguished from black rhinos by looking at their lip, which is flat compared to the sharp mouth of black rhinos. White rhinos have two horns, one small horn closest to them, and then one much bigger horn further away at the end of their face. They are a lighter grey color and are usually seen eating grass, their staple food. Their average weight is about 2 tonnes, males and females included.

Distribution

White rhino populations in Africa have fallen tremendously since the start of rhino poaching, for their keratin based horns. Their northern population is almost non-existent, with their only healthy populations found in Southern Africa in places such as the Kruger National Park, where they are protected as far as possible, and where their populations have been given a chance to regenerate. They are also found in large numbers in the national parks of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and they have been reintroduced in countries like Zimbabwe and Botswana where they were historically found, but where their populations have since fallen victim to the rhino horn trade. 

Status

There was a time when white rhinos were nearly extinct, during the latter part of the 20th century, but their numbers have since then greatly improved and then fallen a bit again due to poaching, with their conservation status now near threatened. Populations in KwaZulu-Natal had previously saved the species from extinction, and South Africa as a whole still remains a sanctuary for the species, with 93% of the whole population found in South Africa. Their current population exceeds 20 000, making them the most abundant of all the rhino species in the world, with most rhino species such as the Black and Indian rhino very much endangered and almost nearing extinction.

Habitat

White rhinos, because of their all-grass diet, are frequent residents to savanna, grassland and bushveld areas where there is an abundance of grass for them to feed. In the Kruger National Park, the central grasslands of the park are home to the biggest number of these big animals. They are also found further south, but further north, as the forest gets denser and denser, they are more and more scarce. Here their cousins the black rhinos flourish, unfortunately with a considerably smaller population.

Social Organization

White rhinos form herds, usually of up to 15 members, with the population of these herds usually being predominantly females, with their calves. Calves or young rhinos are born and raised in these herds, only leaving when they reach maturity and go in search of a mating partner. Males on the other hand also sometimes form all male herds, but they mostly have solitary lives, living alone until the mating season comes along when they go in search of a mate, although they usually live close to the territories of female herds for this reason.

Social Behavior

The social lives of white rhinos involve half a day eating, a few hours more of sleep or rest and then going about other things. They enjoy activities such as mud bathing and scratching their back against the bark of trees, a way of seeing if a rhino lives nearby, as they use the same tree for this over and over until it gets too smooth or dies. They sleep very little, roughly 5 hours a day, like most other herbivores, even though they aren't as vulnerable to predators. Rhinos are also very territorial, with males marking their territory through a lengthy process where they urinate or spray excrement on the borders of their respective territories.

Reproduction

The activities around reproduction in white rhinos are rather odd. When a female rhino enters the territory of a male, he blocks her way out of the territory, making a load calling sound when approaching her. If she is ready to mate she will lift her tail and their 30minute mating process will start. He will stay with her for between 5 days and 3 weeks, and then they will go their separate ways. She will carry her calf for up to 1 ½ years and then give birth to her calf of between 40 and 70kg. This process can begin when females reach sexual maturity between 6 and 7 years, and males reach sexual maturity between the ages of 11 and 13 years.

Anti-Predator Behavior

White rhinos aren’t as aggressive as black rhinos, but can still get quite angry, especially when their young are threatened or put in danger. Because white rhinos are found in grassland areas, their young run in front of them when traveling or when in a distress situation, for them to be able to keep an eye out for their young and keep them safe in this way. Lions again pose the greatest natural threat to rhino calves, but poachers kill more rhinos than any of the natural predators that rhinos have. Rhinos can fend off predators with their horns, and when you get too close to their calves, they will charge at you with the full force they can, making them very dangerous.

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