Length: 335–420cm with a tail of 50–70cm
Shoulder height: 150–185cm
HABITAT & DISTRIBUTION
The Southern White Rhino is found in flat open woodland close to open grasslands, thick brush and water. This species was once widespread throughout South Africa south of the Zambesi river. However, by the end of the 19th century this subspecies was on the brink of extinction with only some 20 to 50 individuals left, confined to a small area of South Africa. A concerted effort to protect this area has meant that there are now over 11,500 in the wild and nearly 1000 in reserves throughout South Africa and also some smaller populations in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
WHAT THEY EAT
White rhinos are grazers, feeding on grasses that they crop with their wide front lip.
White rhino females live in large groups of up to 14 individuals. Immature males will often group together too, however mature bulls are usually solitary.
- White rhinos have two horns; the front horn is longer and can grow up to 150 cm long! The rhino’s horn is made out of keratin, the same substance that makes up human hair and fingernails.
- This species often bathes in mud to cool off and to get rid of external parasites. Poachers have long hunted the white rhino for its very valuable horn, which in some cultures is thought to have medicinal effects. In some reserves, game rangers will actually remove a rhino’s horn and may even replace it with a fake one to try to deter poachers.
- The name “white” rhino doesn’t actually refer to their colour but to the Afrikaans word “widje,” meaning “wide” and referring to the wide mouth of the rhino.
- In the early 1900s only about 20 animals remained after being wiped out by hunters and farmers. This made them the rarest subspecies of any rhino at this time. Excellent and sustained protection has now boosted their population so that this is now the most common of all the rhino subspecies. There are now some 11,600 wild southern white rhinos and 767 individuals in zoos. They have more numbers of this subspecies of white rhino than all the other four species of rhino combined.
- White rhinos can’t see very well and rely strongly on their sense of smell. In fact, the part of the brain responsible for smell is larger than the rest of the brain combined!
- Although they look slow and cumbersome, rhinos can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour, make sharp turns and stop dead.