These large animals have been known to us since childhood, as typical inhabitants of Africa. The white rhinoceros is recognizable by its outgrowth on the front of the head, actually on the nose. Because of this feature, its name comes from. Due to their unusual nature, rhinoceros horns were mistakenly attributed in ancient times with medicinal properties that are not actually there. But from this legend, many of the animals are still suffering from poachers. Because of this, now rhinos can be found mainly only in nature reserves or national parks.
View origin and description
The entire family of rhinos in the modern classification is divided into two subfamilies and 61 genera, of which 57 & # 8212; extinct. Moreover, their extinction occurred tens of millions of years ago, and therefore has nothing to do with human activity. Four living genera form five species, the separation of which occurred about 10-20 million years ago. The closest relatives are tapirs, horses and zebras.
The largest representative of the rhinos is the white rhinoceros, which has the largest number among them. The name has nothing to do with color, and most likely comes from the Boer word wijde, literally meaning «wide», which was too consonant with the English word white — white. The actual observed color of a rhinoceros depends on the color of the ground on which it walks, as the animal loves to wallow in the mud.
Video: White rhinoceros
The main distinguishing feature that distinguishes all rhinos from other animals is the presence of a horn. The white rhino has two. The first, the longest, grows on the nasal bone. Its length can reach one and a half meters. The second is slightly smaller, located on the frontal part of the head. But at the same time, the forehead on the head of the animal is not so pronounced.
Despite its hardness, the horn does not consist of bone tissue and not of horny substance (like the horns of artiodactyls), but of dense protein — keratin. This same protein is found in small amounts in human hair, nails, and porcupine quills. A horn develops from the epidermis of the skin. If damaged at a young age, the horn can grow anew. In adults, the damaged horn is not restored.
The body of the rhinoceros is massive, the legs are three-toed, short, but very thick. At the end of each toe there is a small hoof. Because of this, rhino foot prints are easily recognizable. Outwardly, its footprint is similar to a clover, since the animal, when walking, relies on all three fingers. In terms of size, the white rhinoceros ranks fourth among land animals, yielding the first three places to elephants.
Appearance and features
A distinctive feature of the white rhinoceros is its wide (usually at least 20 cm) and rather flat upper lip. For example, in a black rhinoceros, this lip is slightly pointed and not so pronounced. There are no incisors on the upper jaw, so the lip partially replaces them. The fangs are completely reduced.
The animal itself is quite massive. The mass of an adult individual can reach four tons or more. The height at the shoulders or at the withers is usually from one and a half to two meters. The length of the white rhino is in the range from two and a half to four meters. The neck is very broad, but short. The head is massive and large, slightly rectangular in shape. The back is concave. It sometimes shows a kind of hump, which is a skin fold. The belly is saggy.
The skin of a rhinoceros is very dense and durable. The thickness of the skin in some places can reach one and a half centimeters. Hair on the skin is practically absent. Only in the area of u200bu200bthe ears there are bristles, and also the tail ends in a tuft of dense hair. The ears themselves are quite long, and the animal is able to move them and rotate them in different directions. The hearing of the animal is sensitive, but it plays a secondary role. The vision of the white rhino is also not the best — he is nearsighted, so he usually relies on his sense of smell.
An interesting fact: rhinos have poor memories. Many zoologists believe that this is directly related to poor eyesight compared to other animals.
The lifespan of rhinos is quite long, about 35-40 years in nature, and even longer in captivity.
Where does the white rhino live?
In the wild, white rhinos live exclusively in Africa. Until recently, the range of the white rhino was torn into two isolated parts — northern and southern, and the regions are isolated from each other and quite remote.
The southern part is located in the countries of South Africa:
- South Africa;
- southeast Angola.
The northern range used to be in the territory of the Congo, Kenya and South Sudan. In 2018, the last of the males belonging to the northern subspecies died. To date, only two females have survived, so the actual northern white rhinoceros can be considered exterminated. In the southern part, everything is much safer, and there are still quite a lot of animals there.
The white rhinoceros inhabits mainly dry savannahs, but is also found in small wooded areas, with clearings on which stunted grass grows. Prefers mostly flat terrain. White rhinos are well adapted to dry continental climates. They endure the desert area, although they try not to enter such areas. It is believed that a mandatory condition for the residence of a rhinoceros — it is the presence of a reservoir nearby.
On hot days, rhinos like to stay in the water for a long time or take mud baths, less often they hide in the shade of trees. Therefore, sometimes white rhinos are found near swamps. And much earlier they even came across in coastal areas. During a drought, white rhinos are able to make long transitions over considerable distances. They do not like enclosed areas. Like other savanna dwellers, space is important.
What does the white rhino eat?
The rhino is herbivorous. Despite its menacing appearance and not quite calm character, it feeds exclusively on vegetation and pasture. Living in the savannah, it is not always possible to find a sufficient amount of lush vegetation, so the digestive system of these animals is adapted to absolutely any type of plant.
These can be:
- branches of shrubs or trees ;
- all kinds of herbs;
- low-growing leaves;
- thorny shrubs;
- aquatic vegetation;
- tree roots and bark.
They have to absorb food quite quickly. Every day, in order to get enough, they have to eat about 50 kg of various vegetation.
The rhino meal takes place in the morning and late in the evening. They are afraid of overheating in the hot sun, so they spend the day in puddles, ponds, mud or the shade of trees. Rhinos are large animals and need to drink plenty of water every day. For this, they are able to overcome huge distances of several tens of kilometers. Usually they try to fight off a territory with a reservoir for themselves, where they will go daily to drink.
In general, roads are laid along the territory of rhinos, along which he moves daily, either to a meal, then to a watering place, then to rest in the mud or shadows. The thick skin of rhinoceroses allows them not only to consume thorny plants, which are always present in abundance, because no other animal claims them, but also to live and move calmly through the same plants, being so clumsy.
Also, the white rhinoceros can use its horn and break tree branches in the way. If there is not enough food on his territory, then he goes to explore other spaces for food and can leave his territory.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
At first glance, a rhino can seem slow and clumsy, due to its size, however, if necessary, it can quickly accelerate and run some distance at a speed of about 40 km/h. Of course, he will not be able to keep high speed for a long time, but it looks very intimidating.
Rhinos spend their days alone in their territories, which they choose once and for all life. Only very rarely can it happen that a lack of food will force a rhinoceros to seek new lands.
It is also very rare for rhinos to form small groups, usually a species of white rhino, but mostly live alone. The mother, having taught the cubs the basic things of life, kicks him out of her territory and again remains alone.
The rhinoceros is basically a nocturnal animal. They can absorb vegetation all night long, and during the day they sleep in mud or a pond. Some species prefer to be active both during the day and at night. Although the skin of rhinos is very thick, it can also dry out and burn in the sun, and they are also tormented by insects.
Rhinos are helped to fight insects by birds that literally settle on their backs. These are drag and buffalo starlings. They not only feed on insects and mites from the back of the animal, but they can also tell you about danger. According to some reports, not only birds, but also turtles eat insects from the back of a rhinoceros, which are waiting for the rhino to sit in a puddle with them.
In general, rhinoceroses peacefully get along with all other types of animals: zebras, giraffes, elephants, antelopes, buffaloes and even predators who have little interest in adult rhinoceros. For this reason, rhinos sleep very soundly, and do not think about danger at all. At this point, you can easily sneak up on them and go unnoticed.
Interesting fact: If the rhinoceros senses danger, he will most likely rush to attack first. Therefore, this animal is dangerous for humans. Moreover, the most dangerous is a female with a cub – she will be very aggressive precisely because she will protect her baby with all her might.
Social structure and reproduction
Rhinos are absolutely not social animals. They live alone, both males and females. They come together only during the mating season. For some time, females live with their cubs, but then drive them away, and they also learn to survive on their own.
Male rhinos physiologically reach sexual maturity at about seven years of age. But they do not immediately get into sexual contact with the female – first they need to take possession of their own territories. One male rhinoceros owns a territory of about 50 square kilometers, and sometimes even more. The female has a much smaller territory – only 10-15 square kilometers.
Rhinoceroses mark their territories by leaving their own excrement on it and trampling vegetation in certain places. Sometimes they tear small holes with their feet. Within their own territory, rhinos tread paths, there are main ones, there are secondary ones. Usually the main trails connect places of subsistence with places of lying and shade during sunny hours. Rhinos prefer not to trample the remaining territory in order to save as much pasture as possible.
The mating season can occur at any time of the year, but in the spring there is more often an increased attention to the opposite sex in these animals. Although they have a rut every one and a half months. Females and males seem to pursue each other, thus showing interest. Sometimes they can enter into a fight or a game, it is completely impossible to understand what is happening between them. A female can drive away a male she does not like, and only the most persistent and persistent get the opportunity to impregnate her and pass on their genes to offspring.
The gestation period lasts 460 days, then only one cub weighing from 25 to 60 kg is born. After a few hours, he walks independently and explores the world without leaving his mother. The lactation period lasts up to a year, although the little rhinoceros begins to eat vegetation from the third month. After the mother stops feeding her cub with milk, he still stays with her for another year or a year and a half.
Interesting fact: The female is able to give birth every 4-6 years. If she has a new cub, then she drives the older one away and gives all her attention and care to the newborn.
Natural enemies of white rhinos
White rhinos have no clear enemies among the animals that live side by side with them. Rhinos are already very large animals for predators. Therefore, if they dare to attack, then in almost 100% of cases they themselves die as a result of fights. However, as with other species, predators can pose some danger to white rhino cubs, for the simple reason that they can easily deal with small individuals.
It also happens that a rhinoceros fights an elephant. In this case, the rhinoceros is more likely to be defeated, especially if the elephant manages to injure him with his tusks. Conflicts between these two animals are rare and more often due to mutual misunderstanding, but such cases are quite well known.
Crocodiles can also attack rhinos, they can’t cope with large individuals, but cubs are easily dragged away to the bottom, which is sometimes used.
The most terrible enemy of the rhinoceros was and is a man. Since its discovery, the species of white rhinoceros has been almost completely exterminated. They were saved only by the fact that not all regions at that time were accessible to man. Now, despite the protection of white rhinos at the legislative level, killings of animals for poaching purposes still occur.
Population and species status
Today, the only subspecies of the white rhino is the southern white rhino. This subspecies is considered to be Near Threatened. In the late 1800s, the subspecies was considered extinct, and literally thirty-odd years after discovery. But soon white rhinos were again found in remote areas inaccessible to humans in the valley of the Umfolozi River (on the territory of South Africa). In 1897, they were taken under protection, which eventually led to a gradual restoration of the population. This made it possible, among other things, to settle rhinos in many national parks, and even transport some individuals to zoos in Europe and America. A very slow increase in numbers is associated with a too long breeding period.
Now the species is not threatened with extinction. Moreover, hunting for white rhinos is even allowed, although it is heavily quota-bound. Due to quotas, a mining license is quite expensive – almost 15 thousand dollars, and sometimes even more. Hunting is allowed only in South Africa and Namibia, and in both countries a special export permit is required for the export of a trophy.
According to some data, the total number of white rhinos is just over ten thousand individuals, according to other data, often cited in various media, their population can reach twenty thousand animals.
White Rhino Conservation
The server subspecies of the white rhino is almost completely exterminated. Poachers are to blame for their extinction, since hunting for these rhinos has long been banned at the legislative level. The last male died in Kenya at the age of 44 in March 2018. Now only two females are left alive, and one is his daughter, and the second is his granddaughter.
Back in 2015, veterinarians discovered that naturally neither one nor the other can bear offspring. There is little hope of obtaining offspring of northern white rhinos by IVF – in vitro fertilization. Before his death, biological material was taken from the male (as well as from some other males who died earlier), with the help of which scientists expect to fertilize the eggs taken from females and add them to female southern white rhinos.
They are planned to be used as surrogate mothers. So far, research is being carried out in this direction, and the success of the planned event is not known in advance, and experts have a number of concerns. In particular, such a procedure has never been carried out on rhinos.
The northern white rhinoceros is in the reserve under round-the-clock armed protection from poachers. Patrolling of the territory takes place, including with the use of drones. As an additional measure, the horns of the rhinoceros have been removed so that they are no longer of commercial interest to would-be killers in order to obtain horns.