Rhinos are one of the oldest groups of mammals and continue to play a vital role in their ecosystems. Inhabitants of the earth for 60 million years, all five remaining rhino species are perilously close to extinction. Although this photo, taken in Namibia’s Etosha National Park by Craig Thompson is likely of a White Rhino, Etosha is also the most likely place to glimpse the iextremely rare Black Rhino.
Here are some facts about this intelligent, affectionate animal:
- Both black and white rhinos are actually gray. They’re differentiated by their lips: black rhino’s have a pointed upper lip; white rhino’s upper lips are squared.
- As recently as 1970, an estimated 65,000 black rhinos lived in sub-Saharan Africa. They were so plentiful it wasn’t uncommon to see dozens in a day. About 96% were lost to large-scale poaching between 1970 and 1992, with only 2,475 recorded in 1993. With careful conservation, their numbers have returned to around 5,000, but they remain on the Critically Endangered List.
- 98% of the total black rhino population is found in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. Namibia boasts the highest population, most of which are in Etosha National Park.
- Black rhinos are still poached for their horns. Powdered and used in traditional Asian medicine, they’re claimed to cure a range of illnesses, including cancer. In North Africa and the Middle East, they’re valued as an ornamental dagger handle.
- Black rhinos are browsers, thus their pointed lip helps them pluck leaves and fruit from tree branches. They particularly like acacias. (White rhinos are grazers.)
- The black rhino is smaller than its white relative. It grows to 14 feet (4 meters) long, stands over 4.5 feet (1 meter) at the shoulder, and weighs up to 3,900 pounds (1770 kg).
- The horn is made up of millions of tightly compacted hairlike fibers. Horns grow as much as 3 inches (8 centimeters) a year, and have been known to grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long.
- Females use their horns to protect their young. Males use them to battle attackers.
- Black rhinos feed at dusk, night, and dawn, and rest in the shade during the day.
- Black rhinos wallow in water holes to slather themselves with mud which acts as an insect repellent and sun screen.
- Females reproduce every 2.5-5 years, giving birth to a single calf that remains with mom until it’s 3 years old.
- Females reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years and have their first calf when they’re 6.5-7 years old. Males don’t mate until they’re 10-12 years old.
- Typical age span for this rhino is 40-50 years.