It’s World Rhinoceros Day!
World Rhinoceros Day is celebrated on September 22 each year. Let’s take a moment to learn about these impressive animals and the threats they face. Rhinoceros are at risk of extinction throughout their range, especially from poachers who hunt them for their horn with the false belief that it has medicinal qualities.
The Rhinoceros family includes five species native to Africa and Southern Asia.The Black, Javan, and Sumatran rhinos as critically endangered. The Greater One-Horned Rhino is vulnerable, and the White Rhino is near threatened. Their closest living relatives are tapirs and horses.
They are some of the largest (and oldest) remaining terrestrial animals in the world. Often exceeding a ton, they have thick, tough skin, and typically one to two horns. Rhinos are herbivores, subsisting mainly on leaves, but have the very interesting ability o fermenting food in their hindgut. This allows the rhino to consume more fibrous plant matter as needed.
Young rhinos are vulnerable to hyenas, crocodiles, big cats, and African wild dogs. However, the only real predators of adult rhinos, are humans. Rhinos are killed for their horns which are then sold on the black market. They’re mainly used in traditional medicine, especially in East Asia where they’re valued as highly as gold. In Vietnamese medicine, the horns are ground and consumed for their supposed therapeutic properties.
Daily visits to water holes for drinking make the rhinoceros an easy target for poachers. It’s been reported that only about 3% of poachers are successfully stopped in Zimbabwe. South African National Parks reported that over 1,338 rhinos were killed in South Africa in 2015. In Namibia, rhino trophy hunting remains legal, where hunting licenses can be purchased as a means of raising money for conservation, despite the contradictory nature of this thinking. Along with poaching, loss of habitat also threatens the survival of the rhinos, as their populations continue to plummet.
Efforts are being made to stop poachers, including armed park rangers and even sedating the rhinos and infusing their horns with substances that are harmless to the rhino, but poisonous to humans when consumed. Save the Rhino, The International Rhino Foundation and several national parks, are among those working to ensure the extant rhino population does not disappear. But despite these efforts, rhinos are still facing a high chance of extinction and need our help.
The White Rhinoceros
The White Rhino, also known as the Square-lipped Rhino, roams the grasslands, savannas, and shrublands of South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. They live up to 50 years and can often be seen wallowing in mud to stay cool and protect their skin from insects and the sun.
The White Rhino is the larger of the two African species, with adults averaging over 4,000 lbs. They are not white, as their name suggests, rather they have thick, gray skin. Their only hair is on the tips of their ears and tail, and their eyelashes.
They have a characteristic hump and low hanging head for feeding on grass. They possess two horns located on the end of their nose, with the front horn being much larger than the smaller inner horn.
White rhinos are surprisingly fast, able to run short distances at almost 25 mph! They make up for their poor eyesight with a keen sense of hearing and smell.
Free Rhinoceros Coloring Page
Download your free high-resolution Rhinoceros Coloring Page. As an artist and environmental educator, I enjoy creating resources to help educate youth about wildlife conservation issues.
Feel free to DOWNLOAD and print as many copies as you’d like to share with the children and students in your life.
Rhino Sketching Demo
In celebration of World Rhino Day today, I’m demonstrating how to sketch a rhino! So get a pencil and paper and learn about rhinos while you draw! You can download the Rhino Sketching Handout (below the video) to follow along with the tutorial.
White Rhino Sketching Handout
Download your Rhino Sketching Handout to use with the above video tutorial.
Rhino Conservation and Education Organizations
Many dedicated individuals and organizations are working hard to educate the public, fight poaching, conserve habitat, rescue and rehabilitate rhinos and much more. Below you’ll find a list of just some of the groups where you can learn more about rhinos and support their important work.
Click the links below to visit websites
Rhino Resource Center: Includes a comprehensive list of rhino conservation organizations
Movies About Rhinos
Many movie and documentaries have been made about the plight of rhinos, but their situation is changing so fast due to poaching, it’s hard to keep current. For example, in 2016 over 1,050 rhinos were killed in the country of South Africa alone (statistics from Save the Rhino).
If you enjoyed this story and are interested in learning about other African wildlife, you may enjoy my story on Giraffes.