R is for Rhinoceros.

This entry is part 20 of the series Out of Africa

RThe Rhinoceros, more often called the rhino, belongs to a group of five species, two of whom are native to Africa.

These heavy creatures have dinosaurian features. Their protective skin which is 1.5–5 cm (1/2 -2 inches) thick, looks like a suit of armour. The adult weighs a tonne or more.

Rhinoceros Wikipeida

It is vegetarian. The African rhinos have no teeth at the front of their mouths, so they pluck at their food with their lips.

In Africa we have the white rhino, and the black rhino. I spent years trying to tell the difference until I learned it had nothing to do with colour! The Dutch immigrants used to call the one species the Weid Mond Rhino, meaning Wide-mouthed Rhino. The English misunderstood and thought they were saying white!

rhinoceros-headThere are quite a few differences between the two, but the most obvious is that the white rhino is smaller than its “black” cousin. Also, the white rhino’s normal posture is head-down as he grazes the ground for food, while the black rhino keeps his head up as he eats mainly from shrubs and lower branches of trees.

Although they have poor eyesight, never try to creep up on one! He has an excellent sense of smell, and his ears swivel independently of each other, capable of picking up the slightest sound.

The white rhino is less aggressive than the black, but there is very little that is able to withstand a charging rhino. Even railway locomotives have been derailed, where the rhino saw them as threats.

A group of rhinos is called a “crash” which makes sense! Despite their bulk and stubby-looking legs, they can run up to 55 km per hour (35 mph).

Rhino and Tick BirdsIf you see a rhino in the wild, you are likely to see a row of birds riding on their skin. This is a relationship of mutual convenience. The “Tick Birds” feast on the ticks that are madly attracted to the thick leathery skin. Isn’t it amazing that they can even reach blood through this tough layer?

The South African rhino has two horns, the front one being the longer of the two. These are made of keratin, the same protein that makes hair and finger nails. Sadly, man’s insatiable greed and cruelty has brought the rhino close to extinction as they hunt these amazing animals only for their horns, which are of a similar value on the black market to gold. Vietnam is the biggest market for them, where the horns are ground and drunk as they are believed to have medicinal properties.Rhino under guard sm2

Hitting the news this week has been the story of “Sudan”, the only surviving male northern white rhino, who is now under armed guard in Kenya, in an attempt to save the species. Rangers risk their lives as they try to keep him safe long enough to sire a new generation. Vets have stripped him of his horn for his own safety, but there is still fear that this will not be enough.

Sudan seems to realize the guards are his friends as he has allowed the team to develop an extraordinary relationship with him and his five female companions. The guards scratch them, lean on them, and show them affection. The rhinos seem to sense their love and walk willingly with them through the bush.

Rhinoceros and baby_Buffalo_ZooIsn’t it amazing how all babies look cute?

According to the Bible, the global flood of Noah (Genesis 6-9) wiped out all the animals except those Noah had in the ark. So it’s safe to say that today’s rhinos are direct descendants from the pair Noah released after the flood.

So maybe it’s not surprising Mr. Rhino resembles a dinosaur after all!Even the gigantic baby rhinoceros who arrives in the nursery weighing a hefty 73 kgs (160 lbs)!