Getting to know the Rhino family has to start with the struggle this beautiful animal has had just to survive, and in Africa, thanks to massive global efforts to protect and save them from extinction, the Southern white rhinos now thrive in protected sanctuaries and are now classified as a ‘Near Threatened’ species. Thankfully Black rhinos have doubled in numbers over the past two decades from their low point of just over 2000 individuals, but total numbers are still just a fraction of the estimated 100 000 that existed in the early part of the 20th century. Mankind has much to answer for!
There are a few distinct differences between the black and white rhino as you will see from the information that follows, however, no matter what the differences are, these beautiful giants of nature are a natural wonder to be treasured by every generation.
The black rhino (which are actually grey) are browsers who use their pointed upper lips like a miniature elephant trunk to twist off the lower branches of trees and shrubs, and have a bit of a reputation for being bad-tempered, not true, they are actually just shy and inquisitive and will run towards anything that is unusual in their surroundings, but just as surely run away if they get a whiff of humans!
It’s a really good idea to climb the nearest tree, or, if you have the nerve, to stand absolutely still if you encounter a black rhino in the wild, especially if it is a female with a calf, she will definitely charge anything that looks like a threat to her baby! While rhinos have pretty poor eyesight, their sense of smell and hearing is exceptional. The black rhino has two horns and can grow to 1.6 metres tall and weigh up to 1400kg, and believe it or not, these giants can reach a thundering speed of 55km an hour, pretty much like a tank on four legs bearing down on you!
The white rhino has the wide mouth and also has two horns, growing up to 1.8 metres and easily weighing in at over two tons, making it second only to the African elephant in the size of land mammals. The white Rhino is a grazer and eats mainly grass. This rhino is the more sociable of the two, living in social groups that form families who are very protective of the whole family.
If you are having problems distinguishing the white from the black rhino, the black rhino is more likely to be a solitary animal that is shy and keeps to thick bushy areas, where the white rhino tend to be in groups. Black rhino have short necks and hooked lips to make browsing branches easier, while the white rhino have long necks and wide mouths for grazing the grasslands.
African rhino characteristics also differ in that black rhino adults tend to roam within specific areas considered to be their home ranges. Black rhino also need to drink at least every two to three days, and succulent plants form a large part of their diet so that they can go without drinking water for longer if necessary. Black rhinos also do more of their feeding and drinking during the cool of the night rather than during the day.
Social advertising is also very important to rhinos, they make use of dung piles or spray-urination sites which are used by both white and black rhino, males especially use spray-urination as a way to advertise their presence and to mark their range. Rhinos use their horns for self-defence, attacking opponents or predators, while the white rhino groups will stand in a circle facing outwards to form a protective circle around any calves near the centre.
To round off this exploration into the lives of rhinos it is important to note that the rhino mom is one of the fiercest where it comes to protecting her calves, considering that she has a pregnancy that lasts between 15 to 16 months, she has certainly earned the right to trample anyone getting in the way of the safety of her baby! At birth a baby rhino can weigh anything between 40 to 65kg, and by the time they are 3 years old the calf will be ready to take on the world on its own. Rhinos can live up to 45 years and it is in our best interests to make sure that as many of these magnificent animals make it that far and keep producing their precious offspring!