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Rhinoceros are some of the most endangered species in the world. There are five living species of rhinoceros. The black rhino and the white rhino are found in Africa while the Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhino are found in Asia.
All rhinoceros live in tropical and sub-tropical regions ranging from open savannah to dense forests or jungle. The five species range in size from 340 to 3,630 kilograms and stand anywhere from 1.4 to 1.8 metres tall. The two largest species, the white and the Indian are the second largest land animals next to the elephant.
African Lion Safari maintains a herd of five southern white rhino. There are currently about 17,500 southern white rhino in the wild.
The white rhino was almost wiped out in the late 1800’s but efforts of conservationists, governments and landowners have allowed their numbers to rebound. About 10,000 of the surviving white rhino live in the country of South Africa.
The scientific name for white rhino is Ceratotherium simum simum, which comes from the Greek. Cerato means horn and therium means wild beast. Simus means flat nosed.
The white rhino is a grazer and has a wide, flat mouth for cropping grass. The other four species are browsers and have a prehensile hook on their upper lip for pulling down branches to strip the leaves.
White rhino have two horns that they use for fighting and for protection from predators. The front horn is larger and can measure up to 200 centimetres long. The rear horn is smaller and measures up to 55 centimetres long. Their horns are not attached to their skull. They actually grow from their skin and are made of keratin fibre, which is the same material hair and nails are made of. Rhino horn is very valuable for its use in traditional medicines and as decorative items. As a result, rhino have been hunted extensively and all five species are under pressure from poaching for their horns as well as habitat loss.
African Lion Safari employs a philosophy of working closely with all of its birds and animals. Consequently, staff have developed a relationship with the herd of rhino that enables them to monitor hormone levels in the rhino’s blood and feces on a regular basis and perform weekly ultrasound examinations of their reproductive tracts. This valuable information has enabled us to better understand their reproductive cycles and establish the optimum strategy for breeding.
African Lion Safari is involved in this ongoing research programme in partnership with the Institute for Zoo Biology of Berlin. The main goal of this project is to increase knowledge of rhino reproductive physiology and social structure.
Our hope is to develop a successful breeding programme for this endangered species here at African Lion Safari.