Do you know that the white rhino is not white in colour? The white rhino is actually a slate grey colour. It got its name when English-speaking settlers in Africa misheard the word “wijd” (Afrikaan for Wide) with “white” rhino. It is just one of the five species of rhinoceros on earth. The other three are the Javan, Indian, and Sumatran which can be found in Asian swamps and tropical forests. The last one is the black rhino which can also found in Africa like the white rhino.
The term ‘rhinoceros’ means ‘nose horn’ which pertains to the majestic horns growing from the rhino’s snout. The white rhino has two horns, just like the black and Sumatran rhino while the Javan and Indian only have one horn. The rhinoceroses are some of the largest animals in the world, but the most massive one is the white rhino. The white rhino can reach 1.8 meters tall and its weight can reach up to 2,500 kilograms.
What is incredible is that even though they are humongous in size, they are not predators that eat other animals for food. White rhinos are herbivores as their diet is composed of plants and grass that’s why they usually hang out in the long and short grass savannahs.
They eat at dawn, dusk, and night because they spend the daytime hours sleeping in the shade or in muddy pools to cool down as mud typically protects their skin from the sun’s heat. They can survive up to five days without water but if water is available, they drink twice a day.
Unlike the other species of rhinos, white rhinos may live in a group which is called a ‘crash’, composed of a female and her calves. But sometimes, adult females called cows can also be seen together. Male rhinos, called bulls, prefer to be left alone unless in search of a female for breeding. Males are also very territorial and would mark their land area with dung.
What many may not know is that there are two subspecies of the white rhino: the northern white rhino and the southern white rhino. There are only two remaining northern white rhinos, and around 20,000 Southern white rhinos on the planet. This is a critical number their conservation status is ‘Near Threatened’.
But what is more alarming is that rhinos do not have any natural predators. The main reason for their near extinction is illegal poaching by humans for their horns. Some cultures believe that these white rhino horns have medicinal properties even though this has been scientifically disproven. This has led to horrific poaching of white rhinos.
In 2018, it was an unfortunate day for Mother Earth when the last male northern white rhino named Sudan passed away. This leaves only two remaining northern white rhinos in Kenya which are both infertile females. Currently, there are many efforts to see if it is possible to save the northern white rhino through artificial reproduction. This proved successful for the southern white rhino and many people hope that it could help save the survival of the northern subspecies.
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