The Butterfly Sanctuary

Bringing wildlife conservation awareness one step closer to home

The Majestic Rhinos

The Rhinoceros  is part of a family of odd-toed ungulates (i.e. mammals with hooves), having three hooved-toes on each foot. Yes, people!  They are actually more closely related to horses and zebras than hippos!

There are only five remaining species of rhinos in the world and, combined, there are less than 25,000 of them left.

Among them, the Javan rhino is the rarest land mammal in the world with estimates of only 40 living individuals today.

Below is a quick snapshot of the different rhino species still living today:

Rhino sizes according to species. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Rhino sizes according to species. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Type of Rhino # of Horns Wildlife Distribution Feeder Type (Herbivore)* Population Size IUCN Classification
Indian (i.e. Greater One-Horned) 1 Northeastern India; Nepal Mainly grazer Less than 3,000 Vulnerable
White 2 Southern Africa Grazer Less than 19,000 Near Threatened
Black 2 Eastern and Central Africa Browser 2,000 Critically Endangered
Javan 1 Java, Indonesia Browser 40 Critically Endangered
Sumatran 2 Malay Peninsula; Sumatra, Indonesia; Sabah, Borneo Browser 200 Critically Endangered
* Browsers’ diets are mainly made up of leaves, shoots, twigs, and fruits.  Grazers mainly eat grass.

Some other facts about these amazing creatures:

  1. The word Rhinoceros literally means “nose horn” in Ancient Greek.  Rhino horns are also actually made up of keratin (the same stuff your nails and hair are made of) and grows throughout the life of a rhino.  This means a rhino is in fact capable of growing back their horns, around 1-3 inches a year!  Some conservationists have gone to the extent of surgically removing their horns to help protect them from poachers who would otherwise kill rhinos in the process of taking their horns.
  2. After elephants, rhinos have the longest gestation (i.e. length of pregnancy) of any land mammal.  They can usually carry their babies for an average of 16 months!
  3. While rhino skin is pretty thick (about 1.5 – 5cm), they are actually quite sensitive to sunburn and insect bites, which is why they usually cover themselves in mud for protection.  Mud packs weren’t just made for commercial models!
  4. Rhinos have extremely poor eyesight and much of the aggression seen in these creatures is due more to their inability to see if an approaching object is a threat rather than because of a bad temper.  They do make up for their poor eyesight with excellent smell and hearing.
  5. “Dung step on my land!” – Rhinos are mostly solitary animals and mark their territories with their own feces.
  6. Rhinos have relatively small brains for their sizes (about 400-600 grams or about 0.04% of their body weight).  A human brain is about 2% of our body weight and an elephant’s is 0.1% of its body weight.  Despite this, they are far from stupid and have successfully been trained in zoos.
  7. Humans are an adult rhino’s only natural predator.  Their horns are prized in East Asia for their “medicinal properties” and in the Middle East as decorative handle pieces for curved daggers called “jambiya” (a symbol of manhood and devotion to the Muslim religion).  Several rhino sub-species have already been declared extinct due to heavy poaching of their horns.  A recent example was a sub-species of the Javan Rhino shot by poachers in the Cat Tien National Park in Vietnam in 2010.
Middle Eastern jambiya dagger with rhino horn hilt advertised on the Oriental Arms website.

Middle Eastern jambiya dagger with rhino horn hilt advertised on the Oriental Arms website.

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