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 Greater One-Horned, 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 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 in some cultures is believed to be 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. Staff have developed and maintained 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 ongoing research programmes with international partners with the goal to increase knowledge of rhino reproductive physiology and social structure.
African Lion Safari staff have also been involved in research and conservation projects in South Africa as well. This transfer of technology and expertise has been very beneficial to conservation efforts for this amazing species.