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Animal Data > White Rhinoceros

(Ceratotherium simum simum)

Status Distribution Sexually Mature
Near Threatened Northern - below the Sahara, Chad to Sudan. Southern - SE.Angola and S.Africa. 5 - 8 years
Number of Young Gestation Life Span
1 504 days 45 years

White Rhinoceros
(Click for larger image)

White rhinos tend to be more sociable than their black relatives, they can be seen in family groups of 2 - 5 animals or in parties of up to 10. They are also more even-tempered than the black rhino, being fairly approachable except during the mating season. White rhinos have very good hearing and sense of smell.

The single young will stay with its mother for 2 - 3 years until the next calf is born. Rhino males and females have distinct territories, the male defending his area against non territory-holding males. This entails careful scent marking with both urine-sprayed bushes and carefully placed dung heaps. The female rhino does not place such a high regard on her territory, and hers will often encompass several male territories. The males allow the formation of small family units and accept submissive males onto these areas. If the in-season female moves onto another male's territory the original male will not follow her. There are few border disputes between males, but maturing young males will try to oust old males as they seek to establish their own areas.

The rhinos make extensive use of mud baths in the summer months (October to March in S. Africa), and use dust baths in the winter. The northern sub-species does not face such seasonal variations.

The name 'white' comes from the Africans 'weit' which means wide. This refers to the wide flat lip of the rhino which is used as a grazing implement as the rhino moves over its territory. The lip replaces the incisor teeth in the rhino.

Because of the value of the horn (used for ornamental purposes and in traditional Oriental medicine to cure fever), which is made from the same protein as found in finger nails and hair, poachers are a major problem. There are thought to be only 22 Northern White rhinos left in the wild but the Southern group have responded well to various conservation programmes and their numbers are up to over 11,000.

Main Features

Male 3.7 - 4 m long, 1.7 - 1.9 m tall at the shoulder. Weight up to 2300 kg. The female is a little smaller.

In Captivity

There are a number of zoos that have the southern white rhino and some are breeding well. The northern group, however, is poorly represented and may well become extinct, due to the region's political instability and recent drought problems.


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