Happy World Rhino Day!
Today marks the second annual World Rhino Day, and this year the day is dedicated to everyone involved in protecting rhinos. Here at ARKive we have decided to help raise rhino awareness the best way we know how, by taking you on an audio-visual rhino tour, exploring the reasons these particular perissodactyls (odd-toed ungulates) are worth celebrating and saving!
The Fantastic Five
There are five species of rhinoceros surviving today, ranging from the statuesque white rhinoceros to the diminutive Sumatran rhinoceros. They may differ in looks and distribution, but they share a number of common characteristics including a herbivorous diet and armour-plated appearance.
What’s in a name?
Rather confusingly, despite being called the ‘black’ and ‘white’ rhinos the two African species of rhinoceros are actually both glorious shades of grey. The name ‘white’ is thought to be a mistranslation of the Afrikaans word for ‘wide’, as the white rhino has a broad, square mouth in contrast to the pointed, prehensile lip of the black rhino.
Let’s hear it for the horn
The word rhinoceros is derived from the Greek meaning ‘nose horn’, and it’s not hard to see where the inspiration came from, given that the horns are probably the rhino’s most distinctive feature. Whether they have a single horn like the Indian and Javan rhinoceros, or two horns like the black, white and Sumatran rhinos, all rhino horns are made of fibrous keratin, rather than bone.
The greatest threat to rhino survival is poaching, as rhino horn is still in high demand for use in traditional Chinese medicines and as decoratively carved ceremonial dagger handles. Habitat loss and deforestation have also increased the pressure on the forest dwelling Javan rhino making the populations increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters and disease.
All is not lost however, there are a number of conservation efforts in place in an attempt to stabilise rhino populations including captive breeding programmes, rigorous protection of rhino populations in protected areas and de-horning to reduce the incentives to poach. None of this work would be possible without the work of dedicated individuals and organisations who devote their lives to the conservation and protection of rhinos – Rhino Heroes we salute you!
Follow World Rhino Day on Facebook.
Laura Sutherland, ARKive Education Officer