Black Rhino Response to Humans

“Cuddly” is not a word many people would use to describe black rhino, but I have known a few that would definitely fall into that category.  I had one young female who used to stand, every morning, at the one spot in the wall of the boma where I could fit my arms through in order to give her a daily cuddle.  When I got to her, she would lay down at the wall and push herself as close as possible so that my arms could reach almost all the way around her to maximize her belly rub. 

Black rhino have a reputation for being aggressive in the wild.  They will, in fact, charge humans if they come across them, but it is rare that they will deliberately injure people.  Generally, black rhino charge you to let you know that you are in their territory and they are not thrilled and would like you to leave.  Unless you continue to harass that individual or come across a female with a calf or a particularly aggressive individual, it is unlikely they will want to cause you physical harm.  They charge you to warn you, not to hurt you, unlike some other large game species.

It is surprising how quickly black rhino tame down when they come into captivity from the wild.  The first few days they are in the boma can be extremely stressful for them, but with the right management, they tame down quickly.  Usually within two to three weeks, I am able to hand feed these wild caught rhino and it’s often not long before they are enjoying belly rubs or getting scratched behind their ears and in their wrinkles.  There are individuals that do not tame down well and some stay so anxious that they are released back into the wild before they are moved.  Others might not be as tractable during their period in captivity, but as long as they are settled enough to maintain or gain condition during the process, they can be translocated.  

Over time, black rhino do not time down as much as white rhino do, but in their initial period in captivity, they tame down much faster.  They appear to reach a period in captivity where they get impatient, easily agitated, and stop gaining or even lose condition.  The time frame varies for each individual and some can do well their whole lives in captivity while others seem to get fed up after a few weeks.





Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.