Today is World Rhino Day but in 2018, that's a complicated holiday to celebrate. In the first eight months of 2018 alone, there have been 511 rhinos killed by poachers -- and those are only the documented cases. Groups around the world have been rallying to save this significant and irreplaceable species and their work should not go unnoticed. Even the United Nations came out today to urge the international community to do more. Rhinos aren't quite as iconic a species as elephants -- at least to folks living outside of the African continent. That might be because most people just don't know that much about them. We talked to our friends at TUSK to help us learn more about the rhino and they kindly provided the fascinating facts below.
Please read them and acquaint yourself with the species.
Because here is what it comes down to: If you want to protect the elephant, you should want to protect the rhino, too. And the truth is, if humans do the right thing, there's no reason we can't protect them both.
There are five different species of rhinoceros
Two are from Africa, the Black Rhinoceros and White Rhinoceros, and three are from southern Asia, the Indian Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros.
The name rhinoceros means "nose horn" and is often shortened to rhino. It comes from the Greek words rhino (nose) and ceros (horn).
The white rhino is the largest rhino species and can weigh over 3500 kg (7700 lb) That’s almost half the size of an African elephant!
Rhinos can grow to over 6 feet tall and more than 11 feet in length.
Rhinos can live as long as 40 or 50 years.
Rhinos were once the largest animals on land. Walking the planet 30 million years ago and weighing up to 20 tons, Paraceratherium was the largest land mammal to ever live. Rhino species have survived ice ages and fearsome prehistoric predators. Some of the first rhinos didn’t have horns and roamed throughout North America and Europe. No rhino species has ever inhabited the South American or Australian continents.
Three of the five living rhinoceros species are listed as being critically endangered.The Black Rhinoceros, Javan Rhinoceros and Sumatran Rhinoceros are all critically endangered, which means they have a 50% chance of becoming extinct in three generations.
Rhinos have thick, sensitive skin. Rhino skin may be thick but it can be quite sensitive to sunburns and insect bites, which is why the animals like to wallow so much – when the mud dries it acts as protection from the sunburns and insects.
Relative to their large body size, rhinos have small brains. But this doesn’t mean they are stupid. Rhinos have been known to learn to use their prehensile upper lip to open gates and even car doors.
Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, the same substance that fingernails and hair are made of. The rhino’s horn is not bone and is not attached to its skull; it is also not hollow like elephant tusks. It is actually a compacted mass of hairs that continues to grow throughout the animal’s lifetime, just like our own hair and nails. The longest known horn on a black rhino was 4 feet 9 inches long (they average about 20 inches in length on the black rhino).
Some rhinos use their teeth – not their horns – for defense. When a greater one-horned rhino is threatened, it slashes and gouges with its long, sharp incisors and the canine teeth of its lower jaw.
Rhinos are herbivores (plant eaters). They have to eat a lot to fill their large bodies. Black rhinos need to eat more than 23 kg of trees, shrubs and herbs per day.
Despite their name, white and black rhinos are actually grey. The white rhino’s name is taken from the Afrikaans word “weit,” which means “wide” and describes its mouth. Early English settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the "weit" for "white." Black rhinos probably got their name from the dark. wet mud in their wallows that made them appear black in color. The black rhino has a hooked lip, which allows it to feed on trees and shrubs.
The closest living rhino “relatives” are tapirs, horses, and zebras. They are part of a group of mammals called odd-toed ungulates.