Coast KZN

22 Sep 2020

World Rhino Day: Five facts about South Africa’s rhino species

Tamlyn Jolly (Zululand Observer) Picture: Nicole Collas / Flick

Every year conservationists celebrate World Rhino Day on 22 September, so why not celebrate the day by learning some interesting facts about South Africa’s two rhino species?

Globally, there are five species of rhino – Sumatran, greater one-horned, black, white and Javan – but only the black and white rhino species occur in South Africa.

Here are some interesting facts about the black and white rhinos of South Africa.

Black rhinos browse shrubs
This promotes the growth of new shoots for other herbivores to feed on. Black rhinos even feed on noxious weeds. This prevents these weeds from spreading which, in turn, helps improve grazing for other animals.

The black rhino species is critically endangered.

White rhinos are grass grazers
This species prefers short palatable grasses, but also eats long grass, particularly in winter. Each animal can eat up to 40 kg of grass in one day.

The white rhino is near threatened.

The five senses
Rhinos have terrible eyesight, but they make up for it with an incredible sense of smell and hearing.

Although rhinos’ skin is 50 mm thick in some places, it is very sensitive.

Rhinos and their calves
Interestingly, one stark difference between South Africa’s two rhino species is that the white rhino’s calf runs ahead of it while the black rhino calf runs behind its mother.

Size and behaviour
Weighing in at an average of 2 200 tons, the white rhino is much heavier than the black rhino, whose average weight reaches 1 000 tons.

The black rhino reaches 1.6 m at shoulder height while the white rhino reaches 1.8 m.

The black rhino forms temporary groups of 4 – 5 animals while the white rhino can form large groups of anything between 13 and 50 animals.

The black rhino prefers thickets in which to dwell, while the white rhino can be found on open grassland.