Get to know your Rhino

The white and black rhino – Southern Africa has two species of rhino, the Black rhino (Hook-lipped rhino) and the White rhino (Square-mouthed rhino). Of the two species, the white rhino has the highest population, numbering +- 4000 in the Kruger National Park and only 400 black rhino. It’s hard to believe that less than 100 years ago there were fewer white rhino’s than black rhino’s. The reason for such a low population of rhino in the park was as a result of excessive hunting and poaching. In the mid-70s’ a huge effort was made to boost their numbers by introducing rhino from Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve into the southern part of the Kruger National Park. Another possible reason for the black rhino being so low in numbers could be the fact that they are very anti-social compared to the white rhino which are often seen in large herds of 10 – 15 and even more. Black rhino breed less frequently as a result of being so anti-social.

Latin name: Ceratotherium simum

Weight: Adult males 2 000 – 2 500 kg, adult females 1 600 – 1800 kg.

Age: +- 45 years.

Gestation: 16 months.

Feeding and territoriality:

White Rhino are grazers. They have very broad, flat mouths which makes it possible to chew off large tufts of grass while feeding. They spend a lot of their time grazing in the early morning and late afternoon as well as during the night. On warm days they move into the shade to sleep or cool down in mud wallows or dams.

White Rhino bulls are very territorial and on a daily basis they patrol their territories, chasing out intruding territorial bulls, as well as scent-marking the area to show its’ presence. The male scent-marks by spray-urinating on trees and on the ground. After urinating on the ground the bull often drags his feet over the urine covered sand to spread it over a larger area. The urine under the feet also helps to spread the males’ scent even further as he walks through his territory. The bull also has a number of middens within his area. A midden is a large collection of dung left by the rhino in the same spot. Every day the bull will try re-mark as many of these as possible. After dropping fresh dung into the midden, the bull drags his feet over the dung to break it up into smaller pieces, often spreading it out to increase the size of the midden. Just as he does with spay-urinating, he spreads the scent of the dung under his feet when walking through his territory.

During the dry winter season or drought the more dominant male will often allow neighbouring territorial bulls that have no water in their territories to enter his territory for a drink of water, as long as they leave right after drinking.

The females and young sub-ordinate males that are not territorial wonder quite freely through the different male territories.


White Rhino have extremely poor eyesight but are very capable seeing moving objects. They have an excellent sense of smell and hearing. A rhino’s ears are always moving to pick up any sound made around it. Even while sleeping their ears still move to pick up any sound.


The female White rhino gives birth to a single calf after a gestation of about 16 months. They are often seen accompanied by two or three generations of their own young. The female often chases her older calves away before giving birth to another calf. After 3 or 4 months when the newborn is strong on its legs, the mother will allow the older calves to re-join her once again. The female calves will often spend most of their lives with their mother. Male calves tend to wonder off a bit more the older they get, eventually leaving their mother to try establish their own territories.

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