Black Rhinoceros


© 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

Status Critically Endangered
Size The black rhino weighs between 750 and 3,000 pounds and is between 4.and 6 feet tall.
Appearance Rhinos are large, stocky animals that are naturally grey.  They have two horns near the tip of their nose and a prehensile lip.
Habitat Black rhinos are found primarily in southern African savannahs.
Diet Black rhinos are browse herbivores (plant eaters) and their diet consists of buds, bushes, and trees.
Breeding Rhinos breed year-round. Their gestation period lasts 15 months and newborns weigh between 35 and 55 pounds.