The Regal Rhinoceros
Standing near a rhinoceros, you may feel transported back to an era when megafauna ruled the earth. African rhinos are taller than most humans and can weigh as much as an SUV!
Africa has two species of rhinoceros: the white rhinoceros and the black rhinoceros. Their names have nothing to do with their color. Rather, “white” might come from the word wyd (“wide”) in Afrikaans, a language spoken in southern Africa. It may describe the shape of the white rhino’s wide, squarish lips. Black rhinos, on other hand, have pointed lips. They got their name to contrast them with white rhinos.
What’s the difference between the two species? Besides the mouth shape, white rhinos tend to be larger. They stand up to six-and-a-half feet tall and weigh up to 5,000 pounds, while black rhinos can reach about five-and-a-half feet and weigh up to 4,000 pounds. You can also tell them apart by what they eat. White rhinos graze on grass, while black rhinos’ pointy lips are perfect for browsing on bushes or shrubs.
Unfortunately, rhinos are under pressure from poaching. Their horns are sold on the black market, leading to the decimation of some subspecies. The western black rhino, one of four black rhinoceros subspecies, went extinct in 2011.
Northern white rhinos used to live across eastern and central Africa. But today, only two northern white rhinos remain. They are both females and live in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is working to revive the species with advanced reproductive technologies.
Southern white rhinos offer a hopeful story. One hundred years ago, only about 20 of them lived in the wild. Today, around 20,000 individuals roam South Africa, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbawe.