White Rhinoceros

by Kody Harris

Ceratotherium simum

The white rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal in the world, after the elephant. White rhinos can weigh over 2,000 kilograms (2 tons) and stand as tall as 1.8 meters (6 feet). There were once over 30 species of rhino, but today there are only five and all are endangered. White rhinoceros are calmer and more sociable than other species of rhino, and they often live in small, territorial groups. Females and juveniles are rarely alone. Rhinos communicate using a wide variety of sounds, including grunts, growls, snorts, squeaks and bellows. Because of their hump, white rhinos cannot swim.

Northern white rhinos and southern white rhinos are genetically distinct subspecies and are found in two different regions in Africa. Southern white rhinos were thought to be extinct in the late 19th century, but in 1895 a small population of less than 100 individuals was discovered in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. After more than a century of protection and management, they are now classified as Near Threatened and about 20,000 animals exist in protected areas and private game reserves. They are the only rhinos that are not endangered.

The majority (98.8%) of white rhinos occur in just four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. They live in tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas and shrublands.
There are two subspecies of white rhino in the wild and captivity. Many institution house southern white rhinos, while only two institutions house 10 captive northern white rhinos. In the wild the northern white rhino is found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where between 2 and 5 individuals remain. The southern white rhino is the most common in captivity and in the wild. Their numbers in the wild are about 11,300 and they are found in various reserves and national parks in southern Africa. Even though southern white rhinos are the most common in captivity, zoological institutions are not always successful at breeding them.