THE WHITE RHINO

The Ceratotherium simum is better known as the White Rhinoceros. However, this common name has nothing to do with the physical colouring of the hide, since the White Rhino is actually grey or brown in colour. Rather, the name “white” comes from the German word “weid”, which was used in reference to the wide, flat upper lip of the animal.

This species is classified as being “Near Threatened”, primarily as a result of being poached for its valuable horns. It possesses two keratin horns on its snout, the front being far larger than the one behind it. These horns, the longer of which may reach lengths of up to 1.5 metres, are used in traditional Eastern medicines as well as for their ornamental value in various weapons.


Two white rhinos fighting in the Pilanesberg game reserve
in South Africa.

There are two subspecies of the White Rhino:

•The Northern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) this subspecies is thought to be extinct in the wild, and there are fewer than 10 in captivity.
•The Southern White Rhino (Ceratotherium simum simum) unlike its Northern counterpart, this is the most prolific of all rhino subspecies. It is still under an enormous amount of threat from poachers, but is protected as much as possible.

Small populations of the White Rhino have recently been introduced to countries throughout Africa in which they originally resided (before their numbers were completely decimated in these areas). These lands include Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Namibia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

The square lip that has become the distinguishing feature of the White Rhino is the ideal adaptation to allow this animal to graze on the grasses of the flat plains. They are, like all rhinos, herbivorous, and favour savannahs and grasslands. Unlike their other rhino relatives, however, the White Rhino is an exclusive grazer, and will not eat fruit or juicy leaves from trees and bushes.

The White Rhino is a particularly placid animal, shying away from contact with human beings. In fact, this species is known to flee in fright when confronted by a human being in the wild, even if they just pick up the human scent. As a result, many people have taken this for granted, assuming them to be no danger at all, and approaching unprepared. For this reason, the White Rhino has been responsible for more human injuries than the Black Rhino, which people generally avoid due to its known aggression.

itemprop="url" although being so large, the White Rhino is agile and can achieve high speeds.

The White Rhino can reach approximately 50 years of age in the wild. This is a long life, but breeding is a slow process. They usually live in herds, made up mostly of females, that can number up to about 14 individuals. Bulls prefer to live solitary lives. Females reach sexual maturity at about six or seven years of age and males follow at about 10 to 12 years of age.

White Rhinos love wallowing in mud. This protects their skin from sunburn and rids it of annoying parasites. While lying in the warm mud, it can be heard sighing and may kick its feet in enjoyment. In fact, some will start squealing as they rush towards their mud hole, out of sheer excitement in anticipation.

 

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