It's World Rhino Day today, September 22! So let's get to know them a little better. The rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal after the elephant and is a herbivore. Today there are 5 species of rhinoceros some of which are in threatened by extinction.
SPECIES AND SUBSPECIES OF RHINOS
Rhinos today live in Africa and Asia. In prehistoric times, however, they also existed in Europe, as evidenced by frescoes in caves.
The five species of rhinoceros that exist today are:
- The black rhinoceros living in Africa and its subspecies living:
• in east Africa
• in west Africa and
• in south-east Africa
- The white rhinoceros, which also lives in Africa with its subspecies living:
• in northern Africa and
• in southern Africa
- The Indian rhinoceros
- The Sumatran rhinoceros
- The Javan rhinoceros with its subspecies:
• Javanese Indonesian
• Javanese Vietnamese and
• the Javanese Indian
Rhinos have highly developed sense of smell and hearing, while less developed vision. Their skin is very sensitive and so they smear their bodies with mud in order to protect themselves from the hot sun and mosquitoes.
The black rhinoceros that lives in Africa, south of the Sahara, has two horns,it's the smallest of all rhinos and weighs about two tons! The longer of its two horns reaches 1.30 meters. The black rhino feeds on grasses and leaves of shrubs and is nocturnal. He wants his peace and attacks when it is disturbed and is therefore considered the most aggressive of all rhino species.
The white rhino that lives in southern Africa is the largest of all rhino species and can reach up to 4 tons! Despite their weight, rhinos can run very fast, almost at 50 kilometers per hour.
The Indian rhinoceros has one horn and weighs up to 2 tons. Now it lives only in protected parks in India and Nepal.
The Sumatran rhino is about 1.5 meters tall and weighs up to 800 kilograms. Like the African rhinoceros, it has two horns. The largest of them is 15-25 cm long, while the longest recorded was 81 cm long. The horns of the males are longer than those of the females.
The Javan rhinoceros which lives in the tropical forests of Indonesia, reaches 1.5 tons and of its species there are only 50 individuals.
5 INTERESTING INFORMATION ABOUT RHINOCEROS
- Rhino horns do not have the same composition as bones, but are made up of keratin. The material that nails and hair are made of! Therefore, the rhinoceros horn is a compressed mass of hair, which grows throughout its life. The largest rhino horn on record was 1.5 meters long and belonged to a white rhino.
- Some rhinos use their teeth to defend themselves rather than their horn.
- An adult white rhino can produce around 23 kg of dung per day! The droppings of each rhino have a different smell, which helps the males to find the females that are in the breeding phase.
- The pregnancy of the rhinoceros holds 15 months, making it the second longest-gestating animal after the elephant. The baby rhino is about 65 cm tall and weighs 65-70 kg and, under normal circumstances, he will live about 50 years.
- The white rhino has a broad upper lip, which helps him to graze, while the black rhino has a more pointed upper lip, which helps him to eat fruits from trees and shrubs, and he also has no incisors. Other animals with a similar upper lip to the black rhinoceros are giraffes, horses, llamas, moose, etc.
- African rhinos "cohabitate" with red-billed oxpecker, a bird that feeds on parasites on their skin.
Three of the five rhino species left, the black, of Javan and Sumatran, are threatened with extinction. In the last 25 years three subspecies of rhinoceros have become completely extinct.
In the 1970s the number of rhinos was around 70,000. Today, there are approximately 27,000 rhinos free in the wild. Very few survive outside national parks. The biggest threats to rhinos are loss of their habitats, climate change and of course the poaching for their horns, which are sold on the black market more expensive than gold!
The black rhino has managed to reach 5,000 individuals, doubling its population in the last 20 years, while at the beginning of the century it was much larger (around 100,000).
The number of white rhinos in South Africa exceeds the 20,000 individuals, even though in the past, they were also threatened with extinction. In the past, they even used to make whips from the skin of white rhinos! But the black rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros living in North Africa recently became completely extinct in the wild. The only white rhinos in North Africa are kept at one lodge, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya, and they are both females. The last male North African white rhino died in 2018.
In 2019, the last male Sumatran rhino living in a wildlife sanctuary in Malaysia died at the age of 30, and a few months later in the same year, the last female Sumatran rhino in Malaysia died at the age of 25 from cancer, resulting in to complete extinction of the species from the country.
As mentioned above the Javan rhinoceros now has a very small population of 50 individuals, which live in a national park in the northern part of the island of Java. In 2011 in Vietnam a subspecies of the Javan rhinoceros was declared extinct.
Efforts to conserve India's rhinos have been successful, since at the beginning of the 20th century there were about 200 individuals and today they have reached 3,700!
Around the world various actions aiming at strengthening the rhinoceros population take place. Apart from the rhinos themselves, these actions also benefit various other species of animals as well as plants.