The Black Rhinoceros or Hook-lipped Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), also colloquially Black Rhino, is a species of rhinoceros, native to the eastern and central areas of Africa including Kenya, Tanzania, Cameroon, South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Although the Rhino is referred to as black, it is actually more of a grey/brown/white color in appearance.
The name of the species was chosen to distinguish it from the White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum). This is misleading, as those two species are not really distinguishable by color. The word white in the name "White Rhinoceros" is a mistranslation of the Dutch word wijd for wide, referring to its square upper lip, as opposed to the pointed or hooked lip of the Black Rhinoceros. They are now often referred to as the Square-lipped (for White) or Hook-lipped (for Black) Rhinoceros.
Taxonomy and naming Edit
There are four subspecies of the black rhinoceros:
- South-central (Diceros bicornis minor) which are the most numerous, and once ranged from central Tanzania south through Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to northern and eastern South Africa.
- South-western (Diceros bicornis) are better adapted to the arid and semi-arid savannas of Namibia, southern Angola, western Botswana, and western South Africa.
- East African (Diceros bicornis michaeli) which had a historic distribution from south Sudan, Ethiopia, down through Kenya into north-central Tanzania. Today, its range is limited primarily to Tanzania.
- West African (Diceros bicornis longipes) is an extinct subspecies. Historically, it once occurred across most of the west Anorthern Cameroon, but on the World Conservation Union declared the subspecies to be tentatively extinct. There are no known Western Black Rhinos in captivity.
An adult Black Rhinoceros stands 140–170 cm (55–67 in) high at the shoulder and is 3.3–3.6 m (11–12 ft) in length. An adult weighs from 800 to 1,364 kg (1,800 to 3,000 lb). The females are smaller than the males. Two horns on the skull are made of keratin with the larger front horn typically 50 cm (20 in) long, exceptionally up to 140 cm (55 in).The longest known horn measured nearly 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length. Sometimes, a third smaller horn may develop. These horns are used for defense, intimidation, and digging up roots and breaking branches during feeding. Skin color depends more on local soil conditions and the rhinoceros' wallowing behavior than anything else, so many black rhinos are typically not truly black in color. The Black Rhino is much smaller than the White Rhino, and has a long, pointed, and prehensile upper lip, which it uses to grasp leaves and twigs when feeding. White Rhinoceros have square lips used for eating grass. The Black Rhinoceros can also be recognized from the White Rhinoceros by its smaller skull and ears.
Their thick layered skin protects the rhino from thorns and sharp grasses. Their skin harbors many external parasites, such as mites and ticks, which are eaten by oxpeckers and egrets that live with the rhino. They have relatively poor eyesight, relying more on hearing and smell. Their ears possess a relatively wide rotational range to detect sounds and an excellent sense of smell to readily alert them the presence of predators. they have horns for protection against predators.
For most of the 20th century the continental black rhino was the most numerous of all rhino species. Around 1900 there were probably several hundred thousand living in Africa. During the later half of the 20th century their number severely reduced from an estimated 70,000 in the late 1960s to only 10,000 to 15,000 in 1981. In the early 1990s the number dipped below 2500, and in 2004 it was reported that only 2,410 black rhinos remained. According to the International Rhino Foundation, the total African population has since then slightly recovered to 3,610 by 2003. According to a July 2006 report by the World Conservation Union, a recent survey of the West African Black Rhino, which once ranged across the savanna of western Africa but had dropped to just 10, concluded the subspecies to be extinct. The northern white is soon to join the western black rhino on the extinction list as its last noted numbers were as few as 4. The only rhino that has recovered somewhat from the brink of extinction is the southern white whose numbers now are estimated around 14,500, up from fewer than 50 in the first decade of the 20th Century. The Black Rhinoceros has been pushed to the brink of extinction by illegal poaching for their horn and by loss of habitat. The horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine, and is said by herbalists to be able to revive comatose patients, cure fevers, and aid male sexual stamina and fertility. The purported effectiveness of the use of rhino horn in treating any illness has not been confirmed by medical science. In June of 2007, the first-ever documented case of the medicinal sale of black rhino horn in the United States (confirmed by genetic testing of the confiscated horn) occurred at a traditional Chinese medicine supply store in Portland, Oregon's Chinatown. It is used in the Middle East to make ornately carved handles for ceremonial daggers called jambiyas. Demand for these exploded in the 1970s causing the Black Rhinoceros population to decline 96% between 1970 and 1992.