The African rhino species originated on this planet about 14.2 million years ago. Let’s take a look at this astounding creature.
A century ago, at least in Africa, rhinos were heading for extinction due to over-hunting in the colonial era. Now, all five rhino species are killed for their horns, which are coveted for medicinal purposes and ornamental carvings. Sadly, sophisticated poaching syndicates have evolved into organized crime, utilizing advanced technologies and weaponry.
The dwindling rhinoceros population is so depressing that I will stop talking about it at this point. You can, however, click here to read the exact numbers of remaining species. Fortunately, there have been enormous conservation efforts toward reviving the population; and the white rhinos, the most abundant rhino species, have increased.
There are rhinos in Africa and Asia, a total of five different species. The two African rhinos are called Black and White; the Asian rhinos: Greater one-horned, Sumatran, and Javan. General rhinoceros info here.
It is only possible to observe wild rhinos by going to preserved wildlife sanctuaries. We visited the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya, where these photos were taken. It is 62,000 acres and heavily guarded, although when there you rarely, if ever, see a fence. (For a little pop culture fact: Lewa is where Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010.) More about Lewa here. On a previous safari we visited Lakipia Plains, also in Kenya.
The African Rhinos. The black rhino is not black, and the white rhino is not white. They are both brownish-gray.
The white rhino, seen here, is a grazer. The mouth, for grazing on grass, is wide; so the Dutch named it “wijd” for wide. But the early English speaking settlers mistakenly thought the word was “white” and that is how the wide-mouthed rhino became known as the white rhino. They named the other rhino, that had a narrow mouth, black.
White rhinos are the largest of the five rhino species and are the world’s largest land mammal after elephants. The males average 5,100 pounds (2,300 kg), females average 3,700 pounds (1,700 kg). The male’s head and body length are 12-13 feet long (nearly 4m); and they stand about 5-6 feet high (about 180 cm). In spite of their immense size, they can run up to 31 mph (50 km/h). Gloriously enormous.
Black rhinos, more rare, are not grazers but browsers. They eat leafy branches, shoots, and bushes, and are more solitary than the white rhino. They are known to be more aggressive than the white rhino, and are roughly half as big as the white rhino.
On our last day in Lewa, we had had a great day observing the rhinos. As we were leaving, a wonderful cloud of spirited barn swallows surrounded us, apparently attracted to the bugs our vehicle had stirred up. It was the perfect farewell.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander