Rhinoceros

Once apon a time when God made all the animals he had them all make their own skins. To this effect he gave them all a needle to sow them with. But the Rhino being a bit clumsy lost his needle and had to use a thorn instead, this is why his coat is so badly fitting. also he thought he might have swallowed the needle and this is why he can often be seen kicking his dung about, he is looking for his needle still so he can make a better coat. (from Zambia)

Rhinos related to horses and even more closely to tapirs. They split from horses in the mid paleocene and from tapirs in the late eocene, the earliest known ancestors of modern Rhinos were sheep sized and hornless, all are cecal fermentors and perissodactyls, having 3 toes. They were quite a successful group during the late oligocene and most of the miocene but species numbers are greatly reduced as we approach modern times Prehistoric ancestors of the rhinos did not have horns until recent times. The largest land mammal of all time was a member of the rhino family. Indricotherium from asia stood 5.4 m or 18 feet high at the shoulder and probably weighed about 32 tons dwarfing the modern elephants. The first recognisably Rhino like mammals were to be found in N. America and Europe 30 mya these were species like Caenopenes and Aceratheres these and Paraceratherium from China had no horns but large tusks. Mid oligocene and rhinos have horns, two groups emerge, 1 and 2 horns. Two horns = BR (black rhion). WR (white rhino) and Sumatran Rhino less than 500 specimen left, a browser. One horn = Javan about 50 a browser and Indian about 1500 a grazer. Rhinos reached Africa bout 10mya. Like elephants and other mammals Rhinos evolved a woolly form to survive the ice ages, this woolly rhino is know to have been hunted and killed by prehistoric men.

 

They have one calf per mating, one calf per every 20 to 22 months max young weaned at about 18 months stays with mum until new young is born, gestation 15 months black 16 white +- a month . BR calf follows mother, WR calf travels before mother. Young driven off by mum join a loose group of other juvs or a childless female, sexual maturity reached after 6 years. Rhinos Polygamous with one female mating with more than one male when in oestrus and males mating with as many females as they can. Courtship appears almost to start as a fight with the female rejecting the male aggressively, but the male percerveres thrashes a few shrubs soundly and eventually is allowed to mount copulation lasts for up to an hour during which time the male will ejaculate several times. Courtship and mating are not seasonal

Mark territories with urine and dung piles, dung left kept in certain places which normally mark boundaries, called middens, males penis points backwards when not aroused, this facilitates spraying plants ect. After dunging the male often kicks the dung around, spreading it about a bit and getting the scent on his feet which then leaves a scent trail for a while. Females spray urine at male middens when they are in oestrus to let males know. Females have their own territories often larger than a males. Rhinos have a ggod sense of smell, inact their nasal cavity is 3 times as large as their brain cavity. rhinos are short sighted but have excellent hearing and like many mammals independantly swivelling ears. Rhinos can stand a wide range of body temps, 31 to 50 degrees C this reflects there ancient lineage

Black Rhinos, live in dense scrub up to 3500 metres, very solitary about 7000 in the world 1950 =150 000 1800 =500 000. Feeding primarily in morning and evening, feed primarily on foliage of bushes (over 200 species recorded), prehensile upper lip. Will under certain condition eat giraffe and even elephant dung. Eats sline or salty earth excavates this by digging with front feet or horn, also will dig water holes. Territorial with territories about km2 in poor habitat. Needs to drink nearly every day, water holes not part of any terriory so Rhinos can meet there. Wallow in mud, removes parasites, cool and conditions skin. Bathes also in dust and or ashes. More than 20 species of ticks feed on Rhinos, also various flies Tik birds also supply early warning. Bot fly is an internal parasite, larvae lives in stomach, often sleeps on its feet. loose affiliations of male Rhinos are called clans these are individuals who recognise each other and each others territories. The males in a clan are arranged in a heirachy with a dominant male. Snorts and coughs, barking when charging squealing when hurt. Hyenas particularly spotted ones and occasionaly lions will hunt down calves. Elephants have also been known to kill Rhinos. Actual fights between males are rare but ritual stand off are more common this involves them standing face to face for up to fifteen minutes then backing off slowly and rubbing their hornson the ground before going about their normal business, this is sometimes preceded by a period of standing facing further apart swing their heads from side to side. When charging the black Rhino has his tail pointing straight up while a white has his down or out behind. Reaches top speed in 50 metres. BR weigh up to 1400 kg when full grown.

White Rhinos WR may weigh as much as 3600kgs, stands 1.7 to 1.9 ms at shoulder primary horn 60 to 80cms long, horn like other Rs is keratin much like hair, if the horn is lost it will grow back at about 10cm per year. Feeds on grass, large square front lip, lives in open country, less solitary than black but still often found on its own. Needs to drink about 200 litres of water a day. BR enter water forwards but WR sometimes enters backwards, this makes it easier to get out if the water gets deep to quickly, BRs can swim WRs can not swim. Territories normally larger than BR about 3 square kms

Yemen, ceremonial dagger called djambia, it is an impotant social symbol, oil wealth mean't many could afford the most expensive handle, those made from Rhino horn. In the 8 years 1969-1977 10 000 Rhinos died so that men in Yemen could have Rhino handles on their Djambias, from 1970 to 1986 world numbers of black rhino fell from 70 000 to just 4 000 , mostly these were to supply the markets for Arab knife handles and Chinese medicineThe cinese will pay up to 70 000 USD for a good R horn, and some have been exacerbating the situation by stock piling incase the Rhinos go extinct, when the price of Rhino horn based medicins will rise dramatically. Hunting for food and habitat destruction.







Recommended reading:
Rhinos (The World of Mammals) by Peter Murray ISBN = 0 09 4712506

 

 

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