Common Name: Black Rhinoceros
Species: Diceros bicornis
photo: M Noonan
Black Rhino Taxonomy/Description
The Black rhino's scientific name is Diceros bicornis, which means "two-horned, two-horn".
The Black rhinoceros is a member of the rhino family, Rhinoceridae
in the Mammalian Order of Perissodactyla. All other living species
of rhino are also members of Rhinoceridae. Other Perissodactyls
include tapirs and horses.
The Black rhino is closely related to the White rhino. Similarities
between the two species are quite obvious. Unlike the two of the
Asian rhino species (Indian and Javan), the Black rhino and White
rhino have two horns. The Sumatran rhino, although it has two horns,
differs due to its coat of shaggy brown hair. The Black rhino, like
the White rhino, lacks front teeth, differing from the three Asian
species, which all have incisors. The Sumatran rhino also retains
its canines. Although called the 'black', this rhino is actually
dark gray, about the same shade as its close relative, the White
rhino. 'Black' was probably used to describe this animal because it
appears very dark due to the type of soil it often wallows in.
Although similarities exist between the two species, one may
distinguish a Black rhino from a White rhino by its lips. White
rhinos have broad, square upper lips for grazing on savannah
grasses, while Black rhinos have pointed prehensile upper lips for
browsing on tree branches and shrubbery.
The Black rhino is smaller than its African counterpart, the White
rhino. Its weight still ranges a whopping 1,750-3,000lbs
(800-1,350kg) and it stands 4-5ft tall at the shoulder. Males are
generally larger than females.
Black Rhino Habitat/Diet
The Black rhino's range once extended throughout central Africa.
Grasslands, savannah, and tropical bushlands are preferred.
Primarily a browser, Black rhinos use their prehensile upper lip to
strip leaves off saplings, shrubs, and small bushes.
Black Rhino Behavior/Reproduction
Black rhinos are primarily solitary animals, except for females with
their calves. Males are territorial, and occasionally defend their
resources aggressively. This species of rhino is well-known for its
aggression. It's poor eyesight coupled with its aggressive behavior
results in indiscriminate charging. Even safari jeeps are targeted
by an angry Black rhino. Black rhinos spend large amounts of time
wallowing in dirt and mud, to keep insects from biting their
sensitive skin. Competition for females is characterized by jousting
with their enormous horns. The winner breeds with the desired
female. Gestation is 16 months long. Calves are precocial at birth,
walking shortly after. Females reach sexual maturity at 4-7 years of
age, while males become sexually mature at 7-10 years. Black rhinos
live 35-40 years of age.
Black Rhino Conservation
Once the most numerous species of rhinoceros, the wild population of
Black rhinos numbered approximately 65,000 animals.
Catastrophically, between 1970 and 1992, ninety-six percent of the
Black rhino population decreased. Only 2,300 Black rhinos remained.
Such a sharp decline was due to illegal hunting for the Black
rhino's horn. Today, the population has increased to 3,160 rhinos,
and is continuing to grow. However, political instability in African
nations where the Black rhino lives produce an atmosphere that