White Rhino Facts | Anatomy, Diet, Habitat, Behavior

The white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is the largest living rhino species with the heaviest specimen ever recorded at 3,600 kilograms. The southern white rhinos are the most abundant rhinos in the world with the population of more than 17,000 individuals back in Dec 2007. It is also one of the largest land mammals—second only to elephants.

White Rhino Facts

Anatomy

  • The head and body length of white rhinos is 140–150 in (360–380 cm) in males while the female averages 118–143 in (300–363 cm).
  • The adult males weigh up to 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) and females 3,800 lb (1,700 kg).
  • Males have a shoulder height of about 65–73 in (165–185 cm) whereas that of females’ is 61–70 in (155–177 cm).
  • Males have 20–47 in (50–120 cm) long anterior horns while the length of the females’ horns is about 20–62 in (50–158 cm).
  • Unlike black rhinos, white rhinos have got broad lips and mouth—perfect adaptation for grazing.
  • Northern white rhinos appear to be slightly smaller than the southern species but the former has got the longer legs.

Distribution

  • The southern white rhinos once occupied the northern KwaZulu-Natal in the east, and Zambezi to the south. It went all the way to Botswana through Northern Cape and ends up in the northern region of Namibia.
  • The northern subspecies had occurred in the Nile River, northern Uganda, southern Sudan, and westwards through northeast Congo and the Central African Republic as far as the southern edge of Chad.
  • Evidence suggests that white rhinos were much abundant in the East Africa and the population remained stable until recently. Hunting is the primary reason for their reduction over its entire range.
  • Currently the northern white rhinos are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Garamba National Park.

Read More: What Do Rhinos Eat in the Wild?

white rhino facts
White Rhino ©www.worldwildlife.org

Habitat

The southern species are thought to exist in the drier savannas while the northern white rhinos make homes in moist habitats which are abundant in termite mounds.

Behavior

  • The female rhinos have a home range of 8–16 mi2 (10–20 km2) but their range goes bigger in low-density population or where conditions prove to be less favorable for white rhino habitats. In moderate habitats the home range extends to 20 mi2 (50 km2).
  • The northern subspecies have a much larger range covering 20–40 mi2 (50–100 km2) in Uganda whereas in Garamba the range goes to about 80–200 mi2 (200–500 km2).
  • Unlike females, the adult male rhinos have a limited range for they have to defend breeding territories.
  • White rhinos spend most part of their daytime feeding as they remain active in day and night.
  • At midday, rhinos will seek some shady areas where they would take short sleep. They do lie in pool water but only sometimes.
  • Adult males are solitary while females move in a group of mother and offspring.
  • Dominant male rhinos are known to claim defined breeding territories where they do not allow other dominant males to enter. These territories extend 4–1 mi2 (0.8–2.5 km2) but it may be as great as 20–40 mi2 (50-100 km2) in some less populated areas.
  • Male rhinos will produce loud roars or shrieks to make sure the territory belongs to them while females also use loud snorts to drive off the predators.
  • They live in groups of 14 members most of which are females.
  • Sometimes male rhinos get into fight with each other which lead to a change in territorial dominance.
  • Generally white rhinos do not conflict with lions even when they are their young nor do lions preys on rhinos save for exceptional circumstances.
  • Young black rhinos fall prey to hyenas but white rhinos do not because the white rhino calves walk ahead of their mother.

Feeding Ecology & Diet

  • The southern white rhinos are exclusive grazers for herbs make up only 1% of the rhino’s diet. They are rarely seen feeding on woody browse.
  • For most part of the year rhinos rely on short grasses which are hardly 1 in (25 mm) above soil level.
  • During the dry season, white rhinos will consume taller grasses including red oats grass (Themeda triandra) and buffalo grass (Panicum maximum).
white rhino facts
Northern White Rhino ©www.latimes.com

Reproductive Biology

  • Calves are born all year round.
  • The Female gives birth to a single infant after a gestation period of 16 months. The infant weighs up to 145 lb (65 kg).
  • The weaning period lasts about 15–24 months. In Hluhluwe-Umfolozi the birth interval is 2.5 years.
  • Females attain the maturity age at 4 years age.
  • Young males will go alone around eight years of age. At 10 – 12 years of age they will start defending their territories. At this stage males become mature.
  • White rhinos have a maximum lifespan of 40 years.
  • They don’t have any natural predator in the wild.

Conservation Status

The future of northern white rhinos is at stake because there are only 30 individuals remaining in the wild. All are found in Garamba Park. They are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).

References

Dinerstein, E., and L. Price. “Demography and Habitat Use by Greater One-horned Rhinoceros in Nepal.” Journal of Wildlife Management 55 (1991): 401–411.

Laurie, Andrew. “Behavioural Ecology of the Greater Onehorned Rhinoceros.” Journal of Zoology, London 196 (1982): 307–341

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