Response to Humans
Jack was a 7-year-old
white rhino bull who I got to know when I took him from South Africa
to Botswana. When I called Jack, he would come up to the fence for
a belly rub and would even lie down so he could roll onto his side
or back for a more thorough scratch. When visitors came to the boma,
I would introduce them to Jack. He would stand and let them rub his
side and back. If I was not with the visitors, even those who had
been to visit him a handful of times, he would stay at the far side
of the boma and stare when they tried to call him over. It seemed
that Jack had learned to trust me and became comfortable with me in
a way that he was not with strangers or acquaintances.
White rhino are known as the
less aggressive of the two African species and in the wild are often
more visible than black rhino, not only because of their preference
for open grassland, but also because most populations seem to
habituate to and tolerate human presence more than black rhino do.
When white rhino feel threatened, however, they will charge. They
rarely charge with intent to harm, but rather charge to demonstrate
that they are unhappy with the perceived threat and then turn away.
When wild white rhinos are
first put into captivity, however, they are extremely wild and take
several weeks to settle down. In fact, white rhinos will often
become anorexic and refuse to eat for several days; some will go so
long that they have to be released back into the wild. Keeping them
together in pairs or small groups will sometimes help them settle
in. Getting them used to human presence and noise also helps them
adjust to life in captivity.
In zoos, white rhino are
generally calm and mild-mannered. Given an appropriate amount of
space, quantity and quality of food, proper social settings, and
basic necessities like a mud wallow and a scratching post, white
rhino can do well in captivity.