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Africa's Big 5 - Images, Facts and Information about the "Big Five"


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African Rhino (Diceros bicornis & Ceratotherium simum)
Two White Rhinos, Mala Mala Reserve, South Africa - Rhino, Africa's Big 5

Two White Rhinos, Mala Mala Reserve, South Africa - Rhino, Africa's Big 5

© Getty Images
There are two species of rhino in Africa, the Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) and the White rhino (Ceratotherium simum). Black rhinos have suffered the most drastic reduction in population in the last 20 years. There are now only about 4000 left in the wild although valiant conservation efforts are increasing those numbers. The white rhino is more numerous numbering at over 17,000 but they are heavily concentrated in Southern Africa. Rhinos are actually neither black nor white in color, they are all grey.

Black rhinos are usually solitary, whereas white rhinos tend to be more social and live in groups. Black rhinos live in savanna, shrub and tropical bush areas, they eat leaves, bushes, small tree branches and shoots. White rhinos live in the savanna and are grazers. Their lips are what distinguish them from one another, a black rhino has a prehensile lip to strip leaves off bushes. A white rhino has a long, flat lip adapted for grazing.

Rhinos are large mammals (only second in size to the elephant), an adult white rhino can weigh in at 6,000 lb's! Rhinos are indeed shortsighted, a little bad tempered, but magnificent to look at. Unfortunately there aren't too many to look at these days due to poaching. Rhino horn, used for medicinal purposes to reduce fevers, is much prized in Asia. In 2012, rhino horns were valued at $30,000 per pound ($60,000 per kilo), with each horn weighing in at about 6-8 lbs, that's a lot of temptation for poachers. If they manage to avoid poachers, rhinos can live up to 30-50 years.

Where to see the African Rhino
Because of their endangered status, rhinos have been protected in several private reserves dotted around Southern Africa and black rhinos in particular are being re-introduced to national parks that are better protected these days.

Fun African Rhino Facts
  • South Africa is home to more than 80% of Africa's rhino population
  • The white rhino's name derives from the Dutch "weit," meaning wide, a reference to its wide, square muzzle adapted for grazing
  • Rhinos have three toes on each foot
  • A group of rhinos is called a crash
  • Oxpeckers eat the ticks off a rhino's hide and also warn of danger
  • A charging rhino can reach speeds of 35 mph
  • A rhino's horn is made of keratin, the composite is similar to a horses hoof
  • Man is the rhino's only natural predator
  • Rhino's have roamed the earth for more than 50 million years
  • Female rhinos are pregnant for 15-16 months

Unpleasant Facts About the Rhino's Current Status

  • There are thought to be 29,000 rhinos left in the world, 20,000 of which live in South Africa.
  • Over 1000 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2013.
  • Rhino horn has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it is thought to cure a number of ailments from fevers to gout, and these days it's rumored to help cure cancer
  • A pound of rhino horn is worth $30,000, a kilo is worth $65,000
  • The main markets for rhino horn include China, Vietnam and Thailand where the upcoming middle classes can afford to spend more on traditional medicine.
  • Asia only has 3,000 rhino left (no surprise given the local demand)
  • South African wildlife authorities have made over 200 arrests related to rhino poaching in 2012
Rhino - AWF
South Africa Rhinos - Christian Science Monitor
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