The average lifespan of the animals has increased
Diceros bicornis / Ceratotherium simum rhino
What do rhinos look like?
Rhinos are real colossi and the second largest land mammals after elephants.
A black rhinoceros measures up to 3.50 meters from nose to bottom and weighs up to 1500 kilograms. It is 1.60 meters high from floor to shoulder.
The white rhinoceros is even bigger. It is the largest species of rhinoceros and grows up to 3.80 meters long. It measures 1.50 to 1.80 meters from floor to shoulder. The males weigh 1.8 to 3 tons, some even up to 3.5 tons. The females weigh 1.8 to 2 tons.
Typical for both rhino species are their massive shape with the hump of the neck, the slightly sagging back, the short legs and the gray color. The tail is 70 centimeters long and has a tassel of black hair at the end.
Its trademark are the two pointed horns on the nose: the front one is slightly longer than the rear one. With the black rhinoceros it is usually up to 50 centimeters long, with the white rhinoceros up to 100 centimeters.
The horns consist of a sticky, extremely solid horn mass, the keratin. If the horn is injured or breaks off, it grows back again.
Rhinos are real "pachyderms". Their skin is two centimeters thick on average, and up to four and a half centimeters on the neck. It protects the animals from being injured by thorns and from being attacked by conspecifics.
Only the ears, eyelids and tail grow bristly black hair. Otherwise they are hairless.
The head is rather stocky. The ears are, especially with the white rhinoceros, relatively large and bag-shaped. The eyes are tiny in relation to the size of the animals.
Like all rhinoceros species, the animals have no front teeth, only molars to grind their plant food.
Where do rhinos live?
Black and white rhinos are found exclusively in sub-Saharan Africa. They used to be common in all savannahs of Africa. Today they only live in a few areas.
In some countries where the animals were already extinct, they have been successfully reintroduced.
Both species are found in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique. The black rhinoceros is also at home in Angola, Rwanda, and up to Tanzania and Kenya. The white rhinoceros is practically extinct in eastern Africa today.
The two rhinoceros species live predominantly in grass and bush savannahs or on the edges of the forest and in sparse forests from the plains up to an altitude of 3500 meters.
In order to survive, they absolutely need water points for drinking and mud baths.
Which rhino species are there?
There are still five species of rhinoceros around the world today. The black and white rhinoceros live in Africa.
There are three species of rhinoceros living in Asia, all of which are extremely endangered and almost extinct: the armored rhinoceros, the Java rhinoceros and the Sumatran rhinoceros.
The armored rhinoceros lives in Nepal, Assam and Bhutan. The Java rhinoceros are found on the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Borneo as well as in Malaysia and Burma.
In November 2019, the last Sumatran rhinoceros to be found in Malaysia died. The remaining only around 80 Sumatran rhinos live widely scattered in Indonesia.
There were also rhinos in prehistoric times in Europe: this included the woolly rhinoceros, which was common in the Ice Age but has long since died out.
How old do rhinos get?
White rhinos live to be 40 to 50 years old. Black rhinos have a life expectancy of up to 45 years.
How do rhinos live?
Rhinos can hear very well and smell very well. When the wind is favorable, they perceive smells from over 700 meters away.
On the other hand, their eyes are relatively weak: at a distance of 20 to 30 meters they can hardly see anything clearly.
It is surprising how fast these large, massive animals can run: a black rhinoceros can reach a speed of up to 50 kilometers per hour, a white rhinoceros at least 40 kilometers per hour.
The animals can change direction very quickly and even frighten predators that come too close to them.
Black rhinos don't really wake up until twilight and at night. During the day they rest and sleep in shady places or wallow in the mud of the water holes.
White rhinos are active both day and night, but also retreat to the shade of bushes and trees at hot lunchtime. And while black rhinos are downright loners, white rhinos are more sociable.
They often live in small groups of up to six animals. The groups mainly consist of females with their young. Adult males usually roam the savannah alone.
Rhinos love mud baths more than anything: the skin is cared for and the animals get rid of insects and other parasites.
In addition, a mud bath cools the large body down. This is important because the animals do not have sweat glands and therefore easily overheat in the hot climate of their home. In the dry season, when there are no mud baths, the animals roll around in the sand instead.
The two African rhinoceros get their name from the shape of their upper lip. This is adapted to the forage plants of the animals.
The black rhinoceros has a finger-shaped, pointed upper lip that it can use to grip. With this so-called gripping lip, it plucks leaves from bushes and trees. The white rhinoceros has a broad, straight lip that it uses to graze grass.
Because of their different feed preferences, the two species can be clearly distinguished from afar by their attitude:
Black rhinos usually keep their heads high because they look for leaves on trees. White rhinos, on the other hand, wander across the savannah with their heads bowed and search for their favorite grasses on the ground.
Both African rhinoceros have territories to which they usually remain loyal for a long time. How big the hunting grounds are depends on how much food and water they offer.
Black rhinoceros areas are six to 40 square kilometers in size, those of white rhinos up to 15 square kilometers. The territories are marked with dung heaps and urine, and the animals always use the same paths there, so that easily recognizable paths are created.
Black rhinos are more aggressive than white rhinos, which are considered quite peaceful contemporaries. Conflicts usually only take place between the males. And real fights in which they also use their horns are rare. Most of the time the cops just run towards each other and stop shortly before the enemy.
Every now and then it is reported that rhinos also attack humans - especially females that have young. Serious accidents rarely occur.
Friends and enemies of the rhinoceros
Apart from humans, adult rhinos have no enemies - they are simply too strong and can defend themselves very well with their horns. Lions and hyenas can only be dangerous to the calves if the mother rhinoceros does not take care of them.
All rhino species were and are hunted mercilessly because their horns are considered trophies and in some countries as a medicine for which every price is still paid today. Although they are now under protection, they are still hunted by poachers.
How do rhinos reproduce?
Black rhinoceros females become sexually mature at four to six years of age, white rhinoceros females at six to seven years.
A female ready to mate marks her surroundings again and again in order to attract males with her scent. Then it also happens that two rhinoceros bulls quarrel over a female and fight violently with each other. After the bull has courted the female for a few days, mating occurs.
The rhinoceros calf is born about 18 months later. Only one cub is born at a time. But this is already a heavyweight at birth: white rhinoceros babies weigh 40 to 60 kilograms, black rhinoceros babies 25 to 40 kilograms.
The little ones are covered with a dark fur, which later falls out. They don't have horns yet, just a small hump on their nose and a light spot on their forehead. The horns grow in these places after about five weeks.
Shortly after birth, the calf can already drink from its mother and after a few hours even walk. It is suckled by the mother, but soon also eats grass or leaves. After a year it already weighs over 400 kilograms.
In the case of the black rhinoceros, the offspring are independent after two years, in the case of the white rhinos after two and a half to three years. Then the mothers drive away their young and are ready for a new mating.
How do rhinos communicate?
Rhinos can grunt, snort, sigh, roar and even trumpet like elephants. Usually the males are more likely to be heard than the females. Many of their sounds are so deep that we humans cannot perceive them.
Rhino calves squeak, growl, moan, snort or howl.
What do rhinos eat?
Rhinos spend around 50 percent of their time eating.
The white rhinoceros eats grass and herbs almost exclusively. The black rhinoceros mainly pluck leaves, but also thorny twigs, branches and bark from acacia trees. Grass, on the other hand, leaves it standing.
Both species regularly visit so-called salt licks. These are places with salty stones and salty earth where the animals lick to meet their salt needs. Rhinos drink water every day, but if need be, they can do without water for a few days.
Rhinos are also kept in zoos. They also try to breed the animals there in order to save the individual rhino species from extinction.
Are rhinos protected?
All rhino species are under protection. The Asian species in particular are very much threatened with extinction.
The African northern white rhinoceros is also practically extinct. There are still over 20,000 animals of the southern white rhinoceros, mainly in southern Africa, but the species is still endangered.
It looks even more critical with the black rhinoceros: There are only around 5000 animals left, which is why the species is considered seriously threatened.
The greatest danger remains poaching. Despite numerous protective measures, it has increased sharply again in Africa in recent years because the horns of the animals fetch a higher price than gold on the black market.
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