Africa - 31st Aug 2018

September 22nd marks World Rhino day, and Kenya is lucky to be the home of both the black and white rhino. The “white” component of the name resulted from a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word “wyd” meaning “wide”. The white rhino has a wide square looking lip that enables it to graze. The black rhino, on the other hand, has a pointy upper lip to enable it to eat leaves from trees and shrubs. Both animals are grey in color, different shades of grey.

The rhinoceros name comes from Greek word rhinoceros. It means “nose-horned” and is commonly abbreviated as the rhino. There are two species in Africa and three in Asia; Indian, Javan and Sumatran. At the beginning of the 20th century, 500,000 rhinos roamed Africa and Asia. Currently, the Javan and Sumatran rhinos are critically endangered. The Southern white rhino in Africa is vulnerable (near threatened) while the western black rhino and northern white rhino have gone extinct in the wild.

Rhinos are some of the largest herbivores alive and can weigh upwards of 1 ton. The African species of rhino do not have front teeth. They pluck leaves/grass with their lips. They have a thick protective skin and can have one or two horns. The African species and the Sumatran species have two horns while the Indian and Javan rhinos have one horn. The rhinos can run as fast as 50km per hour despite their weight.

Rhinos have poor eyesight and rely heavily on their acute sense of smell and sense of hearing. They can be found mostly in grasslands. They usually sniff and snort when they feel disturbed. The rhinos do not eat humans. They do, however, charge at them and any other animal /thing which they feel are a threat. Black rhinos are generally more aggressive than the white ones. The white rhinos are termed as more sociable and placid.

Rhinos are killed for their horns which are used for ornaments or traditional medicine. Asia, specifically Vietnam, is the largest market for rhino horns. Rhino horns are sold at $60,000 per kg. It is believed that the horns have therapeutic properties and that is why people grind them up and consume them. The horns are actually made up of Keratin.
The black rhino male has thicker horns compared to the female whose horns are longer and thinner in comparison. The rhinos use the horns as weapons against predators and for dominance and threat displays in contact with other rhinos.

The black rhino is usually dark grey in color but can range from dark yellow-brown to dark brown depending on the mud color of the area where they are. They have a pointed upper lip as the black rhino eats leaves from trees and shrubs.

The white rhino is the largest of the five rhino species. The white rhino stands out due to it square broad lip which it uses to graze and the hump on its back. They can be quite tall compared to the black rhino, standing at 4 meters long and 1.85 meters in height

Rhinos like to wallow in the mud especially during the day. This mud acts as an insect repellent and sunscreen for the animals. The mud gives the animals the visual color hence the difference between the white and black rhino. However, the two animals do not have any difference in terms of color.

Currently, there are very few rhinos that survive outside the national parks and reserves. In Kenya, we have only 2 southern white rhinos in existence and they are at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. There are around 3600 black rhinos in existence in the wild. The white rhino is the least endangered of the living rhino species with a population of over 20,000 animal’s individuals in the wild.