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The African Rhino

There are two species of African Rhino, and even though some people don’t know this, there are actually three species that live in Asia. The two that are native to Africa are the white rhino and the black rhino. Both are considered to be part of Africa’s Big Five. Now most people think that the Big Five represents animals that are the most sought after to catch a glimpse of when visiting Africa. While this is true, Big Five originally meant that these were the five most dangerous animals to hunt, back in the day when big game hunting was popular and one of the reasons why all but one of these majestic animals are on the endangered species list.
The African Rhino - 296470_209213545808171_5326392_n
African rhinos are pretty distinctive, and if you happen to see one you will know what it is right away. It is large, with some males reaching weights of one ton or more. They have a thick protective skin and an extremely heavy head. Rhinos have large shoulder muscles, that help keep their heads up as well as mobile.

They have small brains for an animal their size and have and two horns. These horns can grow up to a meter in lengt, and are sought after on the black market for various reasons. Because poachers usually kill the animals outright for their horns, many conservationists will tranquilize these animals and remove their horns, allowing them to live without being targeted by poachers.

White rhinos have two subspecies, the southern white rhino, which mainly lives in South Africa. There are around 14,500 of these animals in the wild, making them more numerous than the northern white rhino. This subspecies is highly endangered and there may be as few as four left in the wild. This is mainly because these four animals lived in a Czech zoo until the end of 2009 when they were reintroduced to a refuge in Kenya in hopes of breeding them. There are two northern white rhinos at the San Diego Zoo as well.

There are some different characteristics between the white and black rhino. They are very similar in color, some grey, others whitish. The black rhino isn’t really black, it is darker. The real differences lie in the shape of their mouths. The white rhino has a wide mouth, used for grazing, while the black rhino have narrower mouths, used to hold onto twigs and leaves. The black rhino is smaller and while two horns are prominent, sometimes they can also develop a third horn as well. Their horns are a lot smaller, reaching lengths of just up to 140 centimeters on rare occasions.

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Map of the historical range  of Diceros bicornis.CC BY-SA 3.0 by   J. J. HornungOwn work

While black rhinos can live in various habitats, they like areas that have dense and woody vegetation. You will find the white rhino in savannahs, near shade trees and either mud wallows and water holes. Both can have habitats that overlap and can have shared watering holes and feeding grounds. The black rhino is a solitary animal, the white rhinos are more gregarious, meaning they often live in herds.

The African rhino, whether white or black are very ill tempered, especially when they are disturbed by poachers or tourists trying to catch them in a viewfinder. They have poor eyesight and this may be one of the reasons why they can charge for no apparent reason. They do however have great hearing as well as a keen sense of smell. They have an extensive vocabulary of squeaks, snorts, and bellows, as well as other sounds.
If threatened they will lower their head, snort and break into a run. Be watchful, even though these creatures are huge, they can run at speeds up to thirty miles an hour and are very agile. They can kill a person very easily, either from goring you with their horn or just bashing on you with their large and powerful heads.

There are many different safaris and tours in South Africa that include the rhino as part of the adventure. These tours understand the dangers these animals pose and try to make sure they are kept at a distance, while still providing opportunities to film these wonderful and endangered animals.