Did you know that the White rhino is the second largest land mammal after elephants.
There are two species in Africa, the White or Square-lipped rhino and the Black or Hook-lipped rhino.
The name White Rhino actually comes from a mistranslation of the Dutch word “wyd” meaning wide and referring to the square lip. The squareness of the mouth is an adaptation to eating short grass.
The Black Rhino has a hooked, prehensile (independently mobile) upper lip which it has evolved as an adaptation to eat its primary food: twigs and branches, more effectively. The Black Rhino is scarcer than the White, mainly due to habitat destruction whereas they are both under serious threat from poaching.
Although smaller in size, the Black Rhino is known for its unpredictable and seemingly aggressive nature. This is why it is the Black Rhino and not the more docile White Rhino which was included in the original Big Five of Africa.
Rhino make excellent mothers as it takes a long time for the babies to reach a point of independence, with youngsters normally staying with the mom’s for around 3 years until they have their next calf. One of the main behavioural differences between Black and White Rhino mothers and babies is that when threatened, the White Rhino baby always runs in front of its mother, whereas with the Black the baby runs behind.
Rhino horn has become a valuable substance due to the rarity of these animals and an ever growing demand for it coming from the East. Although it has absolutely no medicinal value, it is sought after as a status symbol to be in possession of and therefore buyers will pay top dollar for it. In the last 13 years the rhino poaching epidemic has increased massively with 6 rhino poached in South Africa in 2000, 122 in 2009 and 891 by November 2013! With an estimated world population of only 5000 Black Rhino and just over 20 000 White Rhino remaining this trend clearly cannot continue without the resulting extinction of iconic and unusual animals.
Some of the best places to see rhinos in the wild are the Kruger National Park and its surrounding private reserves and for Black Rhino, Etosha National Park in Namibia.