Top 10 Facts About Rhinoceroses
1. There Are Five Subspecies of Rhinos
Although all rhinos share the same basic structure, there are actually five different species of rhinos that differ in very slight ways from one another.
- Sumatran Rhino - These are the smallest of the five remaining species. They are also the only Asian species to have two horns. Their body is covered in fur because they are the closest relative of the wooly rhino. In youth, they are reddish brown and slowly turn black as they age. They are also the second most threatened of the rhinos and the most often poached.
- Black Rhino - This species lives in Africa. They are very similar to white rhinos except they have a hooked upper lip. They, like the Sumatran rhino, have two horns, although they occasionally will have a third much smaller one. Although considered critically endangered, their population is slowly increasing and they are believe to be making a comeback.
- White Rhino - These massive beasts are the second largest land mammal and the largest of the rhinos. The biggest difference between the white rhino and the black rhino is the white rhino has a square lip and they do not have as much hair covering their body. They also live in Africa. It is believed that there are actually two different subspecies of white rhinos that live in different parts of Africa. Although they are on the radar of endangered animals, their status according to the IUCN is near threatened, making them the least endangered of all rhinos.
- Javan Rhino - This poor subspecies is the most endangered of all five. Their numbers are so small they can only be found in Ujung Kulon National Park in Java, Indonesia. There are somewhere between 58-68 of this critically endangered animal. They have a grey appearance and only one horn. They often are noted for having almost armor-like bodies as there are many folds in their skin. They used to roam all throughout northeast India and Southeast Asia, but the last one in this and surrounding areas was poached in Vietnam in 2010.
- Greater One-Horned Rhino - As its name implies, like the Javan rhino, it only has one horn. It too has a more armor-like body, although it is not nearly as threatened. It is classified as vulnerable. At one point it was near extinction, but the conservation efforts in Asia have been incredibly successful.
2. Three of the Subspecies Are Critically Endangered
The IUCN classifies how likely an animal is to become extinct. That includes:
- stable (not currently in threat of becoming extinct)
- vulnerable (the IUCN is keeping a close eye to make sure the numbers do not continue to decline)
- near threatened (not yet considered endangered, but numbers are dwindling)
- critically endangered
- extinct in wild
- and extinct
Although all rhinos have been close to extinction at one time or another, two have made a major comeback. There are hopes and efforts to do the same for the remaining species. As stated earlier, the Javan rhino is the most endangered, followed by the Sumatran rhino. The black rhino is still classified as critically endangered, but it is believed that efforts are showing some success, and there is hope that they will make a comeback like their two cousins.
3. Native to Africa and Southern Asia
These animals can now be found in both Africa and southern Asia. There is evidence that they once roamed Europe as cave drawings of these animals have been found there. The black rhino and the white rhino live in Africa. The Javan, Sumatran, and Greater One-Horned rhinoceros roam Asia. They can be found in tropical and subtropical grasslands as well as moist forests, savannas, shrublands, and even deserts.
4. The Wooly Rhino Is One Known Extinct Rhino
Much like the wooly mammoth, this wooly rhino was covered in fur, most likely due to it living in very cold weather. It is believed they shared the same diet and habits as the living species. They lived alone and ate mainly grass. Their remains have been found in ice and caught in oil-saturated soils. They had two horns and weighed between 2-3 tons. Their fossils are fairly common and have been found in both Europe and Asia.
5. Rhino Horns Cost As Much As Gold on the Black Market
Although the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1977 has banned the trade of rhino horns, this very dangerous trade still exists. Right now, the highest market for a rhinoceros horn is in China and Vietnam where they use it as a party drug, health supplement, and hangover cure when ground up. In Vietnam, it is believed that the rhino horn cures cancer.
As the demand is still present, poaching still threatens this animal. Unfortunately, where only the rich could afford at one time, with the middle-class growing and becoming more affluent, more and more people are able to afford a rhino horn. This has caused the cost to rise and in turn, caused poachers to value this rare commodity even more. In 2015, poaching hit an all-time high when 1,300 of these large beasts were slaughtered in Africa alone.
6. Rhinos Contribute to Economic Growth in Sanctuaries
Conservation efforts benefit when rhinos are present because they are so popular for tourists. Since much of the money raised for conservation sanctuaries is through those who visit these areas, conservation efforts flourish in areas where a rhinoceros is present. This is great because there are many needed plants and animals that live in these same areas that need to be protected. This means elephants, buffalo, among other animals benefit just by having a rhino nearby. This also gives more jobs to those who live in the area since the economy does better. In African safaris, they are considered one of the "Big Five" most popular animals in the areas.
7. Rhinos Are Herbivores
All rhinos are herbivores which means they only eat plant-based foods and do not eat meat. They spend their days and night grazing continually and only sleep during the hottest parts of the day. Although they are generally solitary, they sometimes will be in a group called a crash. An area of land will be ruled by a dominant male. Less dominant males may live there. Females will often be part of a few different territories. Fortunately, there is no need to fight over vegetation. They use their snouts to search for food and will use their horns to get bulbs and roots to eat.
8. A Rhinos Best Friend is the Oxpecker
Although a rhinoceros does prefer to be alone from other of its own kind, they appreciate the companionship of the oxpecker. These birds gather in groups and will often be found sitting on a rhino's back eating bugs they find on their skin. These birds will also send out warnings to their rhino friend that allows them to know when danger is near.
9. Record-Sized Indian Rhino Weighed More Than Four Tons!
Of the five species, the white rhino is the largest and the Sumatran is the smallest. The white rhino grows to be about 12 to 13 feet (3.7 to 4 meters) long and 6 feet (1.8 meters) tall at the shoulder. They weigh around 5,000 pounds (2,300 kilograms). Sumatran rhinos grow a respectable 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters) long and 4.8 feet (1.5 meters) tall to the shoulder. They weigh a little less than 1,800 pounds (800 kg). There is some variation even within each species. There was one rhino who weighed more than four ton!
10. Legend Has It They Used to Stamp out Fires
Although there is no evidence that these great beasts will stamp out a fire, there are several legends surrounding this idea. In Malaysia, India, and Burma you may overhear stories of these animals rescuing people by stamping out fires that have started. In Malay they actually call them badak api. The api part means fire, whereas badak means rhinoceros. Whether or not this is true, there is no recent evidence of this.
Rhinos are magnificent beasts that are endangered in large part due to poaching. Without intervention, these animals could end up becoming extinct.
- Bradford, Alina. “Facts about Rhinos.” LiveScience, Purch, 20 Mar. 2018, 10:47 am, www.Livescience.com/27439-rhinos.html.
- "Extinct Woolly Rhino." International Rhino Foundation. Accessed October 02, 2018. https://rhinos.org/species/extinct-woolly-rhino/.
- "Rhino." WWF. Accessed October 02, 2018. https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/rhino.
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© 2018 Angela Michelle Schultz