The black rhinoceros lives in various habitats that range from dry desert areas to moist woodlands. It prefers sparse forest and savannas with acacia scrub and thickets.
Using its pointed and prehensile upper lip, the black rhino feeds on leaves, twigs and shoots. It also regularly visits salt licks. The rhino generally stays within 25 kilometres of a water source, but it can live up to 5 days without drinking if its diet contains succulent plants. To avoid the heat and flies, the rhino wallows in mud holes and spends hours resting in shallow water. It marks its territory by spraying urine and scattering droppings with its hind legs. The black rhino has a keen sense of smell and it can run at 50 km/h.
The front horn averages 50 cm long, in females it is often longer, up to 140 cm.
As regards the social system of black rhinos, there seem to be clans of animals that are known to one another. Temporary aggregations of smaller groups of individuals have been observed. Adult males usually are solitary but occasionally gather in groups feeding together.
BLACK RHINOCEROS IS IN DANGER
In the early 20th century the black rhinoceros was the most numerous of the world’s rhino species. Relentless hunting and clearances of land for agriculture reduced the black rhino population and by 1960 only an estimated 100,000 animals remained. Between 1960 and 1995, large-scale poaching caused a dramatic 98% collapse in numbers which bottomed out at only 2,410 in 1995.
From then on, the rhino population gradually recovered and by the end of 2010 reached 4,880 individuals.
The number of black rhinos has grown mainly thanks to successful conservation efforts in four countries: South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. Almost 98% of the total population is found in just these countries.
Currently, 3 black rhino subspecies can be found in Africa:
Diceros bicornis bicornis in South Africa and Namibia, a few individuals in Angola – 1,920 individuals (2010);
Diceros bicornis michaeli in Kenya and northern Tanzania – 740 individuals (2010);
Diceros bicornis minor in South Africa, Zimbabwe and southern Tanzania, reintroduced also to Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia – 2,220 individuals (2010).
Tallinn Zoo exhibits the black rhino subspecies Diceros bicornis michaeli.
As of 2013, the zoos of the world maintain 188 black rhinos.
The main threat to the black rhinos is poaching for the horn used in traditional Chinese medicine and manufacture of souvenirs. Other threats include habitat loss and alien plant invasions.
Since 1977, the black rhino has been listed on CITES Appendix I. Any trade in black rhinos and their products has been prohibited.
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