The white rhinoceros (or white rhino) is one of the five species of rhinos that exist in the world today. It is also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros, owing to its squared-off lip―an adaptation that helps it feed on the short grass in the Savannas. There exist two subspecies of this animal, the Northern white rhino and the Southern white rhino. While the former is severely endangered with only a few individuals left in captivity, the latter continues to be found in abundance in its natural habitat.
White Rhino: Habitat and Geographical Distribution
The habitat of this species is typically characterized by water holes, mud wallows, and a lot of trees. Found in abundance in several parts of Uganda, Chad, Sudan, Central African Republic, and Congo at one point of time, the Northern white species is only found in the Garamba National Park in Congo today. On the other hand, the major concentration of the Southern white species is seen in South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Uganda, which together house 98.5 percent of the population.
The white rhino is second largest land mammal on the Earth. An adult rhino can attain an average length of 3.4 to 4.2 meters and a shoulder height ranging between 4 feet 10 inches to 6 feet 3 inches. It is known to weigh somewhere between 3,000 to 8,000 lbs. Given below are more of such facts about this animal, which are bound to leave you amazed.
- A white rhino has two horns made of keratin on its head. Of the two, the horn located in the front is larger.
- The feet of this species are stumpy, and typically characterized by three toes on each.
- Being a herbivorous grazer in nature, its diet predominantly consists of grass growing in the Savannas.
- White rhinos can use their ears independently, like chameleons use their eyes.
- Mating in this species goes round the year, with the peak phase between February to June, and the female gives birth to a calf after 470 to 490 days of gestation.
Although it is called the white rhino, it is not white, but gray in color. This name can be traced to the mistranslation from Dutch to English. The Dutch word 'wijd', meaning 'wide' in English, was used to refer to the width of its mouth.
As with several other African species, even white rhinos have the threat of poaching looming on them. The species has been subjected to excessive poaching over the last few decades, mainly for their keratin horns, which have a huge demand in the international market because of their alleged medicinal and ornamental value.
Incessant poaching and lack of conservation measures has brought the Northern white rhino to the verge of extinction. While the Southern white species has been enlisted as a 'Near Threatened' species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the large-scale poaching of this species is bound to cause its population to dwindle sooner or later.