black rhinoScientific Name–              Diceros bicornis

Conservation Status–     One subspecies the Western black rhinoceros is extinct while all other subspecies are critically endangered.

Appearance

Black rhinos actually have light grey coloured skin. Their skin colour is dependent on the soil colour in their area as they regularly roll in mud which coats their soil. They have thick skin which protects them from thorns and sharp grasses. In the skin lives parasites which are eaten by oxpeckers and egrets. While this was once seen to be a symbiotic relationship studies now suggest that oxpeckers are themselves a parasite which feeds on the rhino’s blood.

On the front of the head is a pair of horns which may grow to 1.5m (4.9ft) long. On occasion some are seen with a small third horn. They have a hooked lip which is an adaptation to their browsing lifestyle.

The tip of the tail, the ears and eyelashes are the only hairs on the body of a black rhino.

At the shoulder black rhinos stand 1.4-1.8m (4.5-6ft) tall. From the head to the end of the body they measure 3.3-3.6m (11-12ft). Weights range from 2,199-2,896kg (4,848-6,835lb). Females are smaller than males.

Lifespan                                                                                  

The lifespan of a black rhino is over 35 years in the wild. In captivity they are able to reach ages up to 50 years.

Diet

Black rhinos are herbivores. They will feed upon browse mostly in comparison to the grasses that form the majority of the white rhino’s diet. Woody plants, fruit, shoots, branches and thorny wood branches form their diet. Their diet comprises over 220 plants. When biting off a tree they leave a clean angle.

During a drought period black rhinos may survive for up to 5 days without water. Outside of these times they will drink regularly.

Habitat

Africa is the native home of the black rhino. They can be found throughout Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Botswana, Mozambique and Angola. Western black rhinos used to live in Cameroon but they are now seen to be extinct.

This species makes its home in wooded savannahs, semi deserts, wetlands and grasslands. Their habitat needs to have a water source, mineral licks and a number of bushes and woody herbs.

Black rhino males maintain a territory of between 3.9-4.7km2. Normally in an area there is a dominant male and then younger males who are submissive to these older males. Females maintain a 5.8-7.7km2 territory where they live alone or with their last calf.

Reproduction

black rhinoNo set breeding season has been observed for this species. In drier areas births tend to be concentrated towards the end of the rainy season. Males will sense that a female is ready to mate approach her. As the oestrus cycle continues the male gradually moves closer to the female.  While he is following her he spreads out her dung as he walks along making her harder for other males to track. They will then mate and the male may then stick around for up to 30 days.

Gestation lasts for between 15 and 16 months. A single calf is born in a sheltered spot. After a few hours it can stand. After three days it is walking around behind its mother.

Most calves stop drinking milk after 2 months. Some have still been observed drinking it at 1 year of age. After 2-3 years the calf will leave the mother to go establish its own territory. On occasion a female will remain with the mother for longer and form a small group with its new calf.

At 5-7 years of age the females become sexually mature an achievement which males reach at 7-8 years old.

Behaviour

Predators of the black rhino are few and far between. The only known animal which kills an adult rhino is crocodiles. Some sub adults and calves have been attacked by lions and hyenas.

Black rhinos are active throughout the night and at dawn and dusk. Between the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon they find a tree under which they can rest.

To repel bugs and the sun’s rays black rhinos will wallow in mud.

Common noises made by the black rhino include sniffs and snorts they will also make grunts.

Another method which they use to communicate is scent marking. They will either spray their urine which may reach 3-4 away. They will also leave dung piles and rub a scent gland on their head onto rocks and trees to leave their scent behind.

The black rhino is able to run at up to 55km/h.

Quick facts

Black rhinos are also known as hook lipped rhinos.

Photo credits:

Top        – Public Domain, US Fish and Wildlife Service

Bottom –Public Domain, US Fish and Wildlife Service