White Rhino

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The White Rhinoceros: A Dark Future?

With rhinoceros horn worth more than its weight in gold, poaching has reached record levels – with at least 1004 rhinos killed by poachers in South Africa alone in 2013. Increasing pressure from the international rhino horn trade, together with habitat loss, is pushing the white rhinoceros closer to extinction. It is thought just a handful of captive northern white rhinos remain. Although the southern white rhino has been brought back from the brink of extinction, conservationists continue to fight to save the subspecies.

How Nikela Helps

White and black rhino are being poached and killed indiscriminately, at the rate of three per day!

It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that the threat of extinction is very real.

Nikela helps protect rhino in three ways:

1) On the ground: Supporting Peter and his team of skilled anti-poaching rangers to stay ahead of the hi tech and syndicate driven poachers.

2) Awareness campaigns: Sharing information across the social networks to increase global awareness and invite anyone anywhere who cares to get involved, to get involved, like World Rhino Month. 

Facts about the white rhinoceros

Taxonomy

Two sub-species of the white rhinoceros are currently recognised: the southern and the northern white rhinoceros.

Distribution

The northern white rhino is thought to be extinct in the wild, but this is unconfirmed. The southern sub-species occupies southern Africa, with 93% found in South Africa alone.

Appearance

The white rhinoceros’ name is deceptive, as it isn’t actually white. It is grey/brown in colour. Its misleading name is thought to have come from a mistranslation of the Dutch or Afrikaans word for ‘wide’, as the species has a wide mouth. The black rhino isn’t the colour its name implies either. Instead, the white and black rhino can be distinguished by their upper lip. The white rhino has a squarer, broader jaw than the black rhino, whose jaw is more pointed. This distinctive jaw morphology means the white rhino is also known as the square-lipped rhinoceros.

Diet

Being grazers, white rhinos consume vast amounts of grasses – which they pluck using their square front lip. White rhinos spend half of their lives eating. In wetter conditions, white rhinos drink from watering holes almost every day. However, when water is scarce they can survive four to five days without drinking.

Behaviour and social groups

White rhinos rest in the shade during the middle of the day to avoid the heat, becoming more active in the evening, early morning and late afternoon. In very hot weather, they cool down by wallowing in shallow mud pools. This has the added benefit of getting rid of ectoparasites.

The most social of rhinoceros species, white rhino can occasionally be seen in temporary groups of 14 or more individuals. Young animals can often group together, as will females without calves. Dominant males are less social than females, often living solitarily and occupying smaller ranges. Males are territorial, marking their area through urine spraying, dung spreading, creating dung pules, feet dragging and using their horns to damage plants.

Conservation status and threats

The white rhinoceros is on the IUCN’s Red List, classified as Near Threatened. The northern sub-species is classified as Critically Endangered, with hopes for the species’ future falling on a handful of captive individuals. Although currently classified as Near Threatened, the southern white rhino is often billed as a conservation success story – with the sub-species having been brought back from the brink of extinction. Its numbers have increased since the start of the 20th century, with IUCN estimating there were nearly 17,500 southern white rhino in 2007.

Despite now being the most common rhino in the world, the southern sub-species is not safe from extinction yet – mainly due to the major threat posed by poaching. Rhinoceros horn is used in traditional medicines and in ornamental use. Rhinoceros poaching is thought to have dramatically increased in recent years, which isn’t surprising as rhino horn currently sells for more than its weight in gold. A record 433 rhinos (at least) were killed by poachers in South Africa alone in 2011. Rhinos can be left with horrific injuries from having their horns hacked off by poachers, which can often be fatal. Habitat loss is another factor threatening the white rhinoceros.

How you can help save the white rhino

To protect the remaining white rhinos against the threat of poaching, the efforts of people like Peter Milton is crucial. You can help Peter and his team in their patrol, surveillance and intelligence gathering work in South Africa by making a donation. Your donation will help protect the white rhino by supplying Peter Milton and his colleagues with the equipment needed to continue their work, as well as prosecute more poachers and train more people to do this vital work.

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You can also volunteer on the ground or more importantly in spreading the word and donating your time and expertise. Here are 7 ways you can help even if you don’t live in South Africa.

Information researched and provided by Nikela Volunteer Danielle Boobyer