About African Rhino

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Rhino of South Africa

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In our lifetimes, black and white rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis and Ceratotherium simum) are doomed to virtual extinction in the wild, outside small protected areas. Rhinos’ horns are leading the beast to the brink of extinction. The alleged pharmaceutical qualities of rhino horn, as a nerve tonic and general restorative rather than an aphrodisiac, have supported relatively modest ancient markets in the Far East. Most of the recent poaching in East Africa, however, has been to fulfill the demand for dagger handles, a male status symbol in South Yemen. One well wrought Jambia made from one life-long grown horn can fetch up to US $15,000 in Sana’a.

Horns are not bone, but tightly packed bundles of hair-like structures, similar to hooves and toe nails, mounted on roughened areas of the skull. Apart from this, rhinos are virtually hairless. The unabated and apparently uncontrollable problem of poaching is more than the rhino’s naturally very low population density and slow reproductive rate can support.

Rhinos are odd-toed ungulates, like horses. Their footprints are unmistakable with three large toes. There are two distinct species of rhinos, the black rhino and the so-called white rhino. Both are in fact grey. The latter’s name is a corruption of the Afrikaans word for “wide”, referring to its broad upper lip, which is designed for grazing. Black rhinos have longer necks than whites which helps them to reach up into vegetation for browsing. The white rhino’s relatively longer head enables it to reach the ground to graze.

African rhinos have two long horns, one set behind the other. They are distinct from their cousins, the Indian rhinos (Rhinoceros unicornis), which only have a single horn.

The rhinos’ keen senses of smell and hearing compensate for their weak eyesight. They can turn their ears to locate the source of any disturbance. Like other large bodied animals rhino have potentially long lifespans of up to 50 years.

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