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Wild About Wildlife: The African Rhinoceros
African Rhinos are part of the Big Five family which we talked about a few months ago. If you missed the chance to learn more about the animal which has been inhabited on our planet for millions of years, feel free to take the following opportunity to catch up.
Which is White and Which is Black?
There are in fact two different species of Rhino who live in Africa; Black Rhino's- whose population count is about 4,800, and White Rhino's with an estimated population of 20,000. Their names can be quite misleading though, as the black one is actually grey and the white one is very similar to its smaller relative. Thus, making it fairly difficult for us to distinguish between the two, simply based on their color. Luckily they possess physical characteristics which should help give an indication of which one you're looking at. The first Rhino has a short neck and hooked lips that it uses to feed off of branches on bushes and trees, the other sports a longer neck and wide mouth adapted for eating grass. Another clue is that the Black Rhino is more likely to be seen roaming alone, while white ones tend to hang in groups. Rhinos inhabit grassland and open Savannas. Whilst the Black Rhino favors dense, woody vegetation, the White Rhino preferably opts for Savannas consisting of water holes, mud to wallow in, and trees that provide shade.
Communicating With Scent and Grunts
Scent- marking is an important means of communication for Rhinos. Urine spraying is a frequently used tool by Rhinos males use it to mark their territory and females when declaring that they are ready to mate. Sniffing, snorting and grunting are what make the biggest part of the rhino vocabulary, the latter often observed between social groups. If you hear a snort and then see a Rhino lower its head, take cover! This is a pretty sure sign that they are ready to charge at something, or someone.
Rhinos are herbivores who spend most of their time grazing, be it day or night. They'll sleep only during the hottest time of the day, and occasionally take a mud bath which acts as sunblock and gets rid of the bugs which tend to cover their thick skin.
Armoured Giants Make Unlikely Partnerships
Weighing as much as 1.5- 2 tons, the African Rhino is the second largest land mammal after the Elephant. Their massive body is protected by thick skin, and they've got two horns made of keratin, the same stuff which makes up your nails and hair. Rhino horns are a powerful weapon, especially when charging at 40 km/h. You might think you're not in danger if it so happens that you observe them attacking rocks or trees by mistake (poor eyesight), but do be aware of the fact that these animals have an excellent sense of hearing and smell which will let them know you're around.
One may deem it unusual to see such a fierce-looking mammal form partnership with a fragile little thing like and Oxpecker, but it's not. These birds sit on Rhinos backs and enjoy eating bugs off of their skin and also issue warnings to the Rhinos if they see any danger approaching
Still At Risk
After recently been saved from extinction, thanks to successful conservation efforts, Rhinos today are yet again at risk. Due to a recent decision made by the high court, selling Rhino horns is now legal again and many people lawfully fear that this will cause yet another poaching crises. Demand for Rhino horns is generated mainly by Vietnam and China who use them either to create valuable carvings or as a traditional cures-all medicine. Isn't it rather unfair that an animal which was here a long, long time before the first Homo Sapiens walked the Earth, is now faced with extinction caused by the hand of humans?