RHINOS - REPRODUCTION AND FAMILY STRUCTURE

With the world’s five different populations of rhinoceroses all facing the very real threat of extinction, it is vital for us to understand its life cycle and reproduction so that we can have a hand in assisting it to recover its numbers to some degree and by whatever means possible.

Reproduction is a slow process for rhinos, since the mother will only carry one calf at a time, and the gestation period is long;at between 14 and 18 months (or about 475 days). In addition, it has been found that rhinos in captivity are not likely to reproduce as often, for a number of reasons.


Mother and young rhinoceros in game park in South Africa.

Rhinos are mammals, giving birth to live young that have been carried to maturity in the mother’s womb. Once the calf is born, after the lengthy gestation period, it will be nursed on the milk that the mother produces.

It will survive solely on that rich milk for about a week, after which it will be introduced to soft grasses and foliage. It will continue to feed in this way for approximately 12 to 18 months, after which it is fully weaned. The mother is loving and attentive to her calf’s needs.

The baby is born with dense hair on its body, which aids in keeping it warm and protected from sunburn.

At between two and four years of age, the calf will begin to break away from its mother. Females tend to stick with their mothers for longer, while males break away sooner. As they begin a life of independence, they will need to establish their own territory.

During the time that the mother and calf are together, she will not produce another baby. This means that it can be from three to five years between rhino babies, which makes it difficult to boost their numbers. This also incites some males to kill the calf so that it can mate with the mother.

Both male and female rhinoceroses are independent. Therefore, they both need to be strong and assertive enough to find and establish their own personal territory. Often, they will need to wait for an older animal to die before being able to claim their territory as their own.

 

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