Safari animals: the story of rhinos and the best places to see them

Under threat of extinction and a testament to the resilience of wild creatures in wild places, the African rhino is an enduring symbol of the beautiful strangeness of the natural world. If you see this member of the Big Five in the wilds of Africa, you’ve hit the safari jackpot. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to make it happen.

Under threat of extinction and a testament to the resilience of wild creatures in wild places, the African rhino is an enduring symbol of the beautiful strangeness of the natural world. If you see this member of the Big Five in the wilds of Africa, you’ve hit the safari jackpot. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to make it happen.

There are two main species of African rhinoceros, black and white, although the names are something of a misnomer. Rhinos aren’t named for their colour, but for their lip shape: ‘white’ comes from wijde (wide), the Boers’ term for the fatter-lipped white rhino

Black rhinos are smaller than white rhinos, but adult black rhinos still clock in at anywhere between 700kg and 1400kg. Black rhinos are browsers – they eat leaves, twigs and branches – which means that they’re most often found in thickets and woodlands. The considerably larger white rhino can weigh up to 3600kg and is a grazer, preferring short grasses on savannah plains.

Rhino mothers give birth after pregnancies of around 15 or 16 months, and baby rhinos will survive off its mother’s milk for up to a year after birth. In the wild, rhinos can live for up to 50 years if allowed to do so.

A social life

Although rhinos do inhabit set territories, aggression between rhinos is rare in areas where rhino density is high; breeding males will, however, attack competitors. In Namibia’s Etosha National Park, rhinos often commune with other rhinos at waterholes after dark. Female rhinos frequently live in close proximity to other females, but the mother and her young is the core foundation of most rhino families. That is until the mothers drive off their offspring when they become independent at around two to four years old, which enables the mother to breed again.

A rhino’s horn

The horn of a rhino is made not from bone but from keratin, a protein found in our hair and fingernails. A lucrative prize for poachers over the past century, the horn owes its current value to its use in traditional Asian medicines, including as an aphrodisiac, although its legend dates back much further. In ancient Greece, rhino horn was believed to purify water, while the ancient Persians believed it could detect poisons. In the centuries since it has been used to make the handles of daggers in Yemen, and everything from walking sticks and door handles to the interior of limousines elsewhere.

The best places to see rhinos on safari

Rhinos were once found across Africa, even deep in what we now know as the Sahara Desert. These days, Southern Africa and East Africa are the last strongholds of the rhino, and intensive conservation efforts have seen the species return to many lands where it was wiped out in the 20th century.

Source: lonelyplanet

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