Rhinos are mammals. There are five other species: white rhino, black rhino, Indian rhino, Javan rhino, and Sumatran rhino. On some continents, they became extinct millions of years ago because the climate has changed dramatically. Today, rhinos live in some areas of Asia, as well as in southern and central Africa. Rhinos have one horn, and some species have two, one large and one small.
Rhinos can weigh up to 2000 kilograms and be almost four meters long. They have a large head and short legs. The horn on the nose is made of the same material as the skin. However, the cells have died and therefore feel nothing. It is the same stuff that human hair and fingernails are made of or the claws of certain mammals.
Many rhinos have been poached because humans wanted their horns as a sign of their superiority over these large animals. Beautiful things can also be carved from ivory. Some people in Asia believe that the ground rhinoceros horn can cure diseases. That is why the horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine. This is another reason why many rhinos are poached.
How do rhinos live and reproduce?
Rhinos live in savannas, but also in tropical rainforests. They are pure herbivores and feed mainly on leaves, grasses, and shrubs. The two rhino species in Africa do not have teeth in the front of their mouths, so they pluck their food with their lips. They can run faster than a top athlete and still throw hooks at the same time.
Cows live singly or in herds with their offspring. The bulls are always loners and only look for a female during the mating season. Then they sometimes fight for a female. Otherwise, rhinos are more peaceful than you might think.
After mating, the female carries her young in her stomach for 15 to 18 months, almost twice as long as a woman. There are almost never twins. The mothers feed their young with their milk until it can eat grass and leaves. How long this takes varies slightly from one species of rhino to another.
A mother white rhino leaves the herd just before giving birth. The calf weighs around 50 kilograms, about the same as a ten to the twelve-year-old child. After an hour, it can already stand and suck milk. After a day it is already on the road with its mother. After a few months, it eats grass. It drinks milk for about a year. After about three years, the mother wants to mate again and drives away her young. A female can become pregnant herself at around seven years of age, and males at around eleven years of age.
Are rhinos threatened?
Many people, especially men in Asia, are convinced that the powder from the horns helps against certain diseases. Above all, it should work when men’s sex isn’t going so well. That’s why rhino horn powder sells for more than gold. This boosts poaching, even if poachers are repeatedly caught or even shot. Therefore, many rhino species or subspecies are already extinct, others are endangered or even threatened:
The southern white rhino was thought to be extinct when ten animals were found in one place. Thanks to strict protection, there are now around 22,000 animals again. This is unusual because the animals are very closely related to each other, so diseases can easily creep in. The northern white rhino was extinct everywhere but in one national park. They could multiply to 1,000 animals. Because of poaching, there are only two cows left in a reserve in Kenya today. The last bull died in March 2018.
The black rhino was once nearly extinct, but numbers have recovered to just over 5,000 individuals. A hundred years ago, there were only 200 Indian rhinos left. Today there are again about 3,500 animals. These two species are considered endangered.
There are about 100 remaining Sumatran rhinos and about 60 Javan rhinos. Individual subspecies are already completely extinct. Both species are considered critically endangered.