Picture yourself slowly making your way through the thick forests of tropical Africa. You search high and low for a large, uncommon mammal. Thousands of these creatures used to inhabit these areas. However, now only a few remain. What are we referring to? The rhinoceros, of course!
The rhinoceros—often referred to as the rhino—derives its name from its defining characteristic: its horn (or horns). The term rhinoceros comes from the Greek words for nose (rhino) and horn (ceros).
For centuries, rhino horn has been utilized by people all over the world as a treatment for illnesses. Some individuals believe it can cure many ailments, such as fever and stroke. However, rhino horn is made up of keratin. This is the same substance that makes up your fingernails and hair. And like your fingernails and hair, rhino horn possesses no magical healing properties.
Nevertheless, individuals continue to hunt and kill rhinos for their horns. Rhino horn is extremely valuable. In certain places, it can be sold on the black market for three times the price of gold, based on weight! Killing rhinos is against the law, but poachers still do it in order to obtain their horns. This is one of the primary reasons why rhinos are so scarce today.
There are five types of rhinos. White and black rhinos are indigenous to eastern and southern Africa. Greater one-horned rhinos can be found in northern India and southern Nepal. Sumatran and Javan rhinos can only be found in small areas of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Javan and greater one-horned rhinos have only one horn. The other types have two horns. In some areas, rhinos are being dehorned to prevent illegal poachers from killing them. Their horns are removed, leaving them alive and healthy. This helps protect them from the poachers who might otherwise kill them for their valuable horns. However, this also leaves rhinos vulnerable to attacks from other animals.
Illegal poachers have greatly reduced the rhino populations in Africa and Asia. Indian and black rhinos have been reduced to only a few thousand animals. White rhinos may exist in numbers exceeding 7,500.
Sumatran and Javan rhinos are the rarest. Scientists estimate that there are 400 or fewer Sumatran rhinos. They believe that there are probably less than 100 Javan rhinos remaining in the world. Based on these numbers, rhinos are currently classified as critically endangered.
Rhinos have a reputation for having a bad temper. Some people believe that they can be mean and aggressive. Given their dwindling numbers and constant attacks by poachers, it’s no wonder they might be angry!
However, this perception of rhinos is somewhat of a misconception. Rhinos have poor eyesight. Due to their nearsightedness, they can easily be startled. When startled, they will often charge, fearing an attack.
Rhinos do not attack other animals or humans for food. These large mammals are herbivores that primarily consume grasses or leaves. Rhinos living in zoos are fed hay and fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples.
Think you can differentiate between a black rhino and a white rhino? Sounds simple, right? Not so fast! Both of them are the same color: a dull brownish gray. You can tell them apart by examining their mouths.
White rhinoceroses have broad mouths (some scientists believe the name “white” originated from their “wide” mouths!) that assist them in grazing on grass. On the other hand, black rhinoceroses have narrow mouths with lips that help them pull leaves and shrubs into their mouths.
Have you ever observed a rhinoceros at the zoo? If you have, you know that they are quite adorable animals! Experts state that it will require a significant amount of effort to restore rhinoceros populations in the wild. Are you ready for the challenge?
Give It a Try
Are you prepared to delve deeper into the world of rhinoceroses? Embark on a learning safari with some friends and family members as you engage in one or more of the exciting activities listed below:
- Do you know what rhinoceroses look like? Explore the Rhino Pictures photo gallery online to admire stunning images of these rare large mammals. Would you attempt to ride a rhinoceros in the wild? Explain why or why not. What do you imagine it would feel like to spot a rare rhinoceros in the wilderness of Africa or Asia?
- Can rhinoceros horns cure diseases? Some individuals worldwide believe so! Rhino horns are so valuable in certain regions that they can cost three times more than gold. Why is that? Gain further insights from this video provided by Discovery News. What did you discover about rhinoceroses and their horns? Summarize your findings from the video for a friend or family member.
- Poaching poses a significant threat to the rhinoceros population. How do you propose we can put an end to poaching? Conduct some research with the assistance of an adult. Then, write a letter or email to a friend or family member explaining your idea for eradicating poaching. Ensure to include examples and reasons supporting the feasibility of your idea.
Sources of Wonder
- http://www.kidsplanet.org/factsheets/rhinoceros.html (accessed 21 July 2020)
- https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/rhinoceros (accessed 21 July 2020)
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhinoceros (accessed 21 July 2020)
- https://sciencing.com/do-rhinos-use-horns-8069360.html (accessed 21 July 2020)
1. How many species of rhino are there?
There are five species of rhino: the white rhino, black rhino, Indian rhino, Javan rhino, and Sumatran rhino. Each species has its own unique characteristics and can be found in different parts of the world.
2. Why are rhinos considered to be rare?
Rhinos are considered to be rare because their populations have significantly declined over the years. They face threats such as poaching for their horns, loss of habitat, and illegal wildlife trade. These factors have led to a decrease in their numbers, making them an endangered species.
3. How many rhinos are left in the wild?
The exact number of rhinos left in the wild is difficult to determine, but it is estimated that there are fewer than 30,000 rhinos remaining worldwide. This number includes all five species of rhino combined. Some species, like the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, have critically low populations with less than 100 individuals left.
4. Are there any conservation efforts in place to protect rhinos?
Yes, there are various conservation efforts in place to protect rhinos. These efforts include anti-poaching measures, habitat preservation, community education, and breeding programs in captivity. Many organizations and governments are working together to ensure the survival of rhinos and combat the threats they face.
5. Can rhino populations recover from their decline?
While the decline in rhino populations is concerning, there is hope for their recovery. With continued conservation efforts and strict anti-poaching measures, it is possible for rhino populations to increase. However, it will require a collective effort from governments, organizations, and individuals to ensure the protection and preservation of these magnificent creatures.