Species: C. simum
The White Rhinoceros or Square-lipped rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) is one of the five species of rhinoceros that still exist. It has a wide mouth used for grazing and is the most social of all rhino species.
These rhinoceros are not white in color, but according to a popular myth the name “White Rhinoceros” is a mistranslation from Dutch to English. Dutch word “wijd”, which means “wide” in English refers to the width of the rhinoceros’ mouth. So early English-speaking settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the “wijd” for “white” and the rhino with the wide mouth ended up being called the White Rhino and the other one, with the narrow pointed mouth, was called the Black Rhinoceros. The difference in lip shape is related to the animals’ diets. Black rhinos are browsers that get most of their sustenance from eating trees and bushes. They use their lips to pluck leaves and fruit from the branches. White rhinos graze on grasses, walking with their enormous heads and squared lips lowered to the ground.
White rhinos have two horns, the foremost more prominent than the other. Rhino horns grow as much as three inches (eight centimeters) a year, and have been known to grow up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) long. Females use their horns to protect their young, while males use them to battle attackers.
The prominent horn for which rhinos are so well known has been their downfall. Many animals have been killed for this hard, hair-like growth, which is revered for medicinal use in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The horn is also valued in North Africa and the Middle East as an ornamental dagger handle.
White rhinos live on Africa’s grassy plains, where they sometimes gather in groups of as many as a dozen individuals. Females reproduce only every two and a half to five years. Their single calf does not live on its own until it is about three years old.
Under the hot African sun, white rhinos they take cover by lying in the shade. Rhinos are also wallowers. They find a suitable water hole and roll in its mud, coating their skin with a natural bug repellent and sun block.
The white rhino once roamed much of sub-Saharan Africa, but today is on the verge of extinction due to poaching fueled by these commercial uses. Only about 11,000 white rhinos survive in the wild, and many organizations are working to protect this much loved animal.
Kruger National Park, South Africa (August 2011)