Updated: Sep 5, 2022
A rhinoceros is truly a unique creature, having almost prehistoric attributes, horns made of keratin, and a running charge like you wouldn’t believe. Not to mention their enormous proportions! We are indeed so very fortunate that we still have few of these enigmatic creatures left in the wild and it would certainly be an insurmountable loss if they are driven to extinction by human activities during our lifetime, like the tragic fate so many other creatures since the last century. In order to appreciate the unique rhino family better, let us dive into learning about what makes them so remarkable.
Today, there are 5 different species of rhinos. Three species are found in Asia and two in Africa.
1. Jawan one-horned rhinoceros
2. Sumatran two-horned rhinoceros
3. Greater one-horned Indian rhinoceros
4. African two-horned white rhinoceros
5. African two-horned black rhinoceros
Out of the above five species, it is the African black rhino that is the most famous, followed by the Indian rhino. But all of them are exceedingly one-of-a-kind and important in their own way. In the wild, the biggest threats to all 5 species of rhinos are human encroachment and sometimes, natural disaster.
Jawan one-horned rhinoceros
Unfortunately, this species of rhinos are the MOST threatened rhino of the world. It is believed that approximately only 60 are left in the wild. These rhinos were sadly killed, like other rhinos elsewhere, during colonial times, by trophy hunters. As of today, they are also killed due to their horns, which are mistakenly deemed to be of medicinal value as well as for their tendency to raid crops from time to time due to their habitat shrinking because of agricultural and land development. Adding to this tragic scenario, the coastal area where the rhinos are found is highly susceptible to tsunamis, with volcanos in proximity that can erupt at any time. The other very important factor which will be detrimental to the long life of this species is inbreeding. If the remaining few rhinos are not broken into separate groups and located far from each other, they will inbreed. This will lead to all types of congenital defects in the calves born and eventually the species will be extinct.
Fossil records and DNA analysis have indicated that the one-horned Jawan rhino and the greater Indian one-horned rhino are closely related to each other. The Jawan rhino is sometimes also called the lesser Indian rhino, whereas the Sumatran rhino is related to the African species. The skin of the Jawan rhino also looks armor-plated just like that of the greater Indian rhino, but it is a bit subdued compared to its Indian relative.
Fast Facts about the Jawan rhino:
1. They are approximately 10 feet (3.1 m) long and weigh about 2,300 lbs (2.3 tons).
2. Only adult males have one horn, while females do not have horns at all.
3. They live in dense jungles and are browsers. Being herbivorous, these rhinos eat diverse plant species, specifically shoots, twigs, young foliage, and fruit. Like the Sumatran rhino, they also need salt in their diet. Therefore, they lap up sea water for this purpose.
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Sumatran two-horned rhinoceros
The Sumatran rhinos are the most vocal of all rhino species. About 7.7–10.4 ft (2.36–3.18 m) long, and weighing approximately 1,100-2,200 lbs (500-1,000 Kgs), the upper lip of these rhinos is sharp and pointed. Similar to the Black rhino and Indian rhino, they use it to curl it around the leaves and other vegetation while browsing and convey them to its mouth. Did you know? They are also morphologically similar to the extinct wooly mammoths of the last Ice Age (ended about 11,000 years ago).
Indian one-horned rhinoceros
The Indian one-horned rhinos may really look like some ancient relic, but in reality their tough looking armor-plate-like hides are very vulnerable. Unlike the Jawan rhino, both males and females have horns. These species of rhinos near 12.07–12.47 ft (368–380 cm) in length and a typical male weighs around 4,850 lbs (2,200 kgs).
The Indian rhinos are grazers. They eat mainly grass but will also consume leaves, branches of trees, and fruits, often wading into water to munch on aquatic plants which they relish. They use their semi-prehensile lips to bend the plants, rip them off and convey them to their mouths using their very triangular upper lip. Interestingly, these rhinos are very vocal indeed. At least 10 distinct vocalizations have been identified, including snorting, honking, bleating, roaring, squeak-panting, grunting, shrieking, groaning, rumbling and so on! Today, majority of these species are found only in India and few hundreds in Nepal.
African two-horned white rhinoceros
The name “white” rhinoceros is derived from the Dutch word “wijd”. The word “wijd” means wide and refers to this rhino species’ mouth, which is wide rather than oval like in the other species of rhinos.
White rhinos are the planet’s third largest mammal after the African and Indian elephants. There are two subspecies within this group: 1) Southern white rhino and 2) Northern white rhino. Unfortunately, the Northern white rhino is most likely extinct in the wild. Happily, though, the Southern white rhino population is the largest of all wild rhino populations in the world.
Fast Facts about White rhinos:
1. They are about 12.1 to 13.1 ft (3.7 to 4 m) long and weigh approximately 7,940 lbs (3,600 Kgs).
2. These pachyderms are grazers, eating mainly grass. They need to eat every day and get their water supplement from them.
3. They can go without water for 4 to 5 days.
African two-horned black rhinoceros
At about 9.8–12.3 ft (3–3.75 m) long and weighing approximately 1,760 to 3,090 lbs (800-1,400 Kgs), the black rhino is known for its ill temper! All rhinos have somewhat poor eyesight, however, their sense of hearing and sense of smell are well developed. Since their eyesight is a bit hazy, the black rhinos and the greater Indian rhinos tend to attack when they sense somebody near them.
Unlike their white cousins, the black rhinos are browsers. They consume leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes, and fruit, but similar to their white coutnerparts, the black rhinos can also go without water for up to 5 days.
Approximate population of the 5 rhino species in the wild:
1. Jawan one-horned rhinoceros Around 60
2. Sumatran two-horned rhinoceros Around 80
3. Greater one-horned Indian rhinoceros Around 3,500
4. African two-horned White rhinoceros Around 19,000
5. African two-horned Black rhinoceros Around 5,500
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