10 things you didn’t know about rhinos

As part of our ongoing Save Rhinos Now campaign we’re bringing you Rhino Week – seven days of rhino goodness!

1. A single rhino can produce 23 kilograms (50 pounds) of dung in a single day

This waste actually serves as part of rhino communication.The smell of a dung pile is unique to the rhino that left it. Sniffing another rhino’s leavings helps the animal gather information about its friends. Communal dung heaps work like social networking sites, helping old friends catch up.

 

2. There were once woolly rhinos

Mammoths weren’t the only woolly mammals roaming around in prehistoric times. 350,000 years ago, these furry beasts were common throughout Europe and Asia. Their thick hides helped them survive through the last ice age until around 10,000 years before now.

 

3. Rhino pregnancy lasts 16 months

Notoriously slow breeders, rhinos start mating at the age of seven. They typically leave three to four year gaps between babies. When a female is due to give birth, she wanders away from her group. She gives birth alone and keeps her baby to herself for several days. From this time onwards, mother and baby are inseparable until the female breeds again.

 

4. Mud wallowing protects against sunburn

Rhinos famously roll in mud, and this sticky outer layer shields their skin from the sun. The hot sun dries out the mud, forming a solid layer. Even if the dry mud cracks, the residue it leaves behind still blocks UV rays.

 

5. Thirsty rhinos dig water wells

Though typically staying no further than five kilometres (three miles) from water, a rhino in need of a drink will dig for a drink. By scooping away dirt with the front legs, a rhino can excavate its very own well.

 

6. Their upper lip is prehensile

Adapted for gripping shrubs and tree branches, a rhino’s top lip has a mind of its own. As rhinos don’t have incisor teeth at the front of their mouths the lip is responsible for drawing food into the mouth. The only exception is the white rhino that has a flattened upper lip, specialised to feed on grasses.

 

7. Early rhinos looked like tapirs

The ancestor of rhinos was called hyrachyus and lived 40 million years ago. It had teeth like a rhino, a strong upper lip, and a body shaped similarly to a modern tapir.

 

8. Their sense of smell is better than their eyesight

A rhino’s eyesight extends no further than 30 metres (100 feet), so they rely mostly on their smell and hearing. Researchers think that rhinos charge at humans or vehicles because they can’t make out what’s in front of them. Charging is their best defence against a predator, and is almost always a result of fear.

 

9. A rhino can run at 60 kilometres (40 miles) per hour

Big cats are a threat to young rhinos, and being able to run helps them survive. This speed is a rhino’s secret weapon, helping repel predators. Keeping their precious young safe gives their species the best chances of survival.

 

10. White rhinos form defence circles

To protect their newborns, white rhinos are known to form circles of defence. With their horns pointed outwards, young rhinos are sheltered from predators when at their most vulnerable.

 

Why not adopt a rhino at Ol Pejeta to help them carry on their vital conservation work.

Fatu and Najin with keepers photo by Erico Hiller

 

 

Image from flickr.com/photos/pokerbrit