What would happen if rhinos went extinct?

Areas that were once populated by rhinos have been extensively studied. Areas with the fewest rhinos has 60 to 80 per-cent less grass than heavily popluated rhino areas. By grazing selectively, rhinos create a mosaic of different edible plants in grassy areas. By stripping away certain types of grasses, rhinos leave room for plants that couldn’t otherwise compete.

Not only do rhinos act as lawnmowers, but they fertilise the land. A single rhino can produce 23 kilograms (50 pounds) of dung in a 24 hour period. Without this natural fertiliser, grassy areas would suffer and begin to shrink.

With less grazeable area, the African savannah wouldn’t be able to support as many herbivores. With fewer herbivorous prey animals like antelopes, predator numbers would drop. As big predators like leopards and lions depleted Africa might get less money from safari tourism, causing the African economy to take a hit.

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Fatu and Najin with keepers photo by Erico Hiller

 

Image from flickr.com/photos/wwarby