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Category: Ungulates

Location: Safari Drive

There are five surviving rhino species alive today, two in Africa and three in Asia. The two African species of rhino (black & white) are probably more well known than the Indian, Sumatran and Javan rhinos. Unlike their Asian counterparts the African rhinos aren’t named quite so clearly. The word ‘white’ has nothing to do with the colour of the rhino but originates, or so it is thought, from the Afrikaans word ‘weit’ which means wide, in reference to the white rhino’s wide mouth. White rhino are grazing animals, they use their wide mouths to crop large swathes of grass. Black rhino’s in contrast have a very different diet and so have a different mouth design in which to browse leaves and branches rather than grasses.

The white rhino is larger than the black rhino and in fact is considered the second largest living land mammal, although this could be contested by the common hippo. The position of the head is also different on white and black rhinos, white rhinos have a much lower slung head and larger neck muscle by which to lift the head, almost a tonne in weight alone. The social grouping of these species is also different, white rhinos are more likely to spend time in groups called a ‘crash’. This would mainly be made up of females and their most recent calves. Male white rhino will spend their time alone seeking out females for mating and defending territories.

One thing all five species of rhino have in common is that they are likely to be extinct in the wild within a generation. Rhino are equipped with a horn which grows from the top of their nose. The horn is made from hair which is tightly compressed into a hard mass used for self-defence. Unfortunately their horn has become a desirable product for use as an ornament and in medicine. Here comes the science bit, rhino horn has the same chemical make up as human hair and fingernails; a substance called keratin. There is no medicinal benefit from consuming or touching hair, fingernails, toenails or rhino horn. And as for using it to make ornaments?… well that is just odd. If the demand for rhino horn stops then they can continue to live safely in the wild and the resources that go into protecting them can be used for other needs. The rhino conservation story is a desperate and pathetic one that has a simple quick and easy fix, for now we just need to keep working on getting that simple message out to those that buy rhino horn.

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The largest Rhino Crash in the UK

While on your five mile safari drive, seeing the rhino from you vehicle is among just some of the highlights. Their sheer size will amaze you and having the opportunity to get so close is a privilege. They are fascinating animals to watch and there are few places that you can see so many in one place without the great expense of a trip to South Africa. We have one of the most successful and genetically diverse breeding groups of white rhino in Europe. Our links to conservation charities such as Save the Rhino gives us the opportunity to support vital conservation work in situ which is made possible through the guests that visit our park each year.

The white rhino is the second largest, living, land mammal.

The word white refers to the Afrikaan word weit meaning wide due to their wide mouths.

White rhino are more likely to be seen in groups than black rhino.

They feed on grasses

A female rhino is pregnant for 16 months and they give birth to a single calf.

White rhino are specially adapted for efficient grazing. Their wide mouths are capable of taking large swathes of grass which is cropped very low.

Rhino, along with horses and tapir, are grouped as odd-toed ungulates. Apart from sharing an odd number of toes on each foot they also have similar digestive systems. Unlike even-toed ungulates such as cows and antelope, which have a multi-chambered stomach and chew the cud, rhino, horses and tapir have a much less efficient system. This difference in how they obtain nutrients from vegetation means rhino, horses and tapir must spend more time eating.

White rhino are found in South Africa, the sub-species from North Africa are now extinct in the wild.

Southern White Rhino are classed as near threatened which means they are at serious risk of extinction.

Threats are mainly from illegal hunting which is because there is demand for rhino horn.

Rhino are equipped with a horn which grows from the top of their nose. The horn is made from hair which is tightly compressed into a hard mass used for self-defence. Unfortunately their horn has become a desirable product for use as an ornament and in medicine. Here comes the science bit, rhino horn has the same chemical make up as human hair and fingernails; a substance called keratin. There is no medicinal benefit from consuming or touching hair, fingernails, toenails or rhino horn. And as for using it to make ornaments?… well that is just odd. If the demand for rhino horn stops then they can continue to live safely in the wild and the resources that go into protecting them can be used for other needs. The rhino conservation story is a desperate and pathetic one that has a simple quick and easy fix, for now we just need to keep working on getting that simple message out to those that buy rhino horn.

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