© Rebecca White, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
The critically endangered black
rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is one
of two rhino species found in Africa; the
other is the white rhino. Black rhinos
are browsers, meaning that they use their hooked-lip to feed off of 200
different species of trees, shrubs and bushes.
The greatest threats affecting the black rhino are
human-related. Poaching for rhino horn has
reduced the black rhino population by 96% since the 1970’s, when there were
over 100,000 rhinos! Rhino horn is composed of compressed keratin, the
same material as our hair and fingernails.
Nevertheless, rhino horns are believed to possess strong medicinal value
in traditional Asian cultures, and are sold illegally throughout the world. Rhino horns are also viewed as a sign of
prestige in the Middle East where the
wealthiest men use them for dagger handles. Although poaching is still very common,
increases in the size and quality of protected areas and continuous monitoring
by rhino protection units (RPUs) have helped populations begin to recover. Today,
there are approximately 4,000 black rhinos in Africa.
The AZA Rhino Taxon Advisory Group and the Black Rhinoceros Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program manage over
115 rhinos in 37 AZA-accredited institutions. Conservationists are working in situ to increase the enforcement and
regulation of anti-poaching laws, as well as to promote species protection
through eco-tourism and education. One
of the primary goals of the SSP is to ensure the health and genetic diversity of
the ex situ population so that black
rhinos can eventually be re-introduced into protected areas in southern Africa.
The AZA Conservation Endowment Fund has awarded over $40,000
to the Smithsonian’s Conservation
and Research Center to perform epidemiological
analyses of the wildlife diseases affecting black rhinos.
Black Rhino Facts
||The black rhino weighs between 750 and 3,000
pounds and is between 4.and 6 feet tall.
||Rhinos are large, stocky animals that are
naturally grey. They have two horns near
the tip of their nose and a prehensile lip.
||Black rhinos are found primarily in southern African
||Black rhinos are browse herbivores (plant
eaters) and their diet consists of buds, bushes, and trees.
||Rhinos breed year-round. Their gestation period
lasts 15 months and newborns weigh between 35 and 55 pounds.