Majestic Herbivores With Horned Snouts

Introduction

Rhinoceros commonly known as rhino is one of the five surviving species of odd-toed ungulates in the family of Rhinocerotidae. As described by McNeel (2015), they are large herbivorous mammals best known by their feature of a horned snout. Their name rhinoceros originates from a Greek words ‘rhino’ meaning nose and ‘ceros’ meaning horn. The family entails of basically four surviving genera, which are; white rhinoceros (Ceratherium), Black rhinoceros (Diceros), Javan and Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros) and Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus).

White Rhinos

The white rhinoceros has a huge body mass and a huge head, small neck and a broad chest. The males weigh at least 2,400 Kilograms and the females weigh at least 1,600 Kilograms. Groves, Fernando and Robovský (2010) describe them as having two horns at the snout, with the front horn being larger than the other horn with an average length of 90cm according to Skinner, John and Chimimba (2005). It also has a muscular hump that offers support to its huge head. Its skin colour can vary from slate grey to yellowish brown.

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Dollinger and Geser (2007) identified that the black rhinoceros weigh between 850 to 1600 kilograms, with two horns on just above the snout and the females are a little smaller than the males in which sometimes a third horn may seem to appear. In comparing with the white rhino, according to McNeel (2015), the black rhino is much smaller and possesses a pointed mouth meant to feed on leaves and twigs from trees.

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Javan Rhinos

The Javan rhino is the most endangered species and the largest of all. It possesses a single horn; it is hairless compared to others that have hair in the ears. Its body is made up of folded skin lying on the rump and shoulders, making it seem like an armored creature. Patrick (2015) asserts that adult Javan rhino weight between 900 to 1400 kilograms or between 1360 to 2000 kilograms, its single horn is 26centimeters long, while the females may lack or possess knobs instead of horns.

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Indian Rhinos

Indian rhinos have a greater horn at an utmost length of 60 centimetres. Its skins are thick silver-brown folded at the shoulders, rump, and the back making it have an armoured appearance (Panda, 2016). Its shoulders and upper legs are covered with wart-like bumps with least amount of hair on its body.

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Sumatran Rhinos

The Sumatran rhino is the smallest of all the rhinoceros species and the hairiest (Patrick, 2015). The largest of the species weight 1000 kilograms. It has two horns with the bigger one can be as big as 75 centimetres whereas the smaller being less than 10 centimetres. The Rhinocerotini species are made up of the Java and Indian rhinoceros believed to have emerged back twenty million years ago during the Miocene age that then diverged into the two species ten million years ago. The only surviving primitive group of the Rhinocerotini is the Sumatran rhinoceros, also emerged in the Miocene age.

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Where Rhinos are found

The white and black rhinoceros according to Groves, Fernando and Robovský (2010) is found in the northern and southern parts of Africa. There are four subspecies also found in South Central Africa, Southwestern, East Africa, and West Africa. Indian rhinos are found in most sections of Myanmar extending towards Pakistan and some have been identified in China. Due to human influence, they are protected in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Assam in India as noticed by McNeel (2015). The Javan rhino few are located in Indonesia, Ujung Kulon National park and java in Asia. The Sumatran rhino is confined in parts of Malaysia and Indonesia due to reproductive isolation compared to a time when they were spread across Asia.

Habitats and What Rhinos requires to Live

The white rhino or the square-lipped rhino is deemed Critically Endangered and Possibly Extinct in the Wild (Groves et al., 2010). These species are grazers feeding on grass as food. Therefore, their habitats are mostly the dense, woody vegetation, living in savannas that are topped up with shade trees mud wallows, holes and grass that they graze on.

The black rhinos according to Dollinger and Geser (2007) can be found in woody and dense vegetative habitats. Other habitats that black rhinos are extensively found are the riverine woodlands, bushlands, and marshes and very few are found in grasslands.

The Indian rhinoceros are live in forested and tall grasslands mostly at the foothill of the Himalayas according to Panda (2016). Most have been found to prefer living in swamps and floodplains to provide water and food at abundance levels.

On the other hand, Javan rhino inhabits low-lying areas characterised by tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests (Patrick, 2015). Moreover, these forests are highly humid with plenty of water sources (rivers, lakes, or receive high precipitation) and mud wallows to protect their skin from the sun and ward off parasites.

Sumatran rhinos, according to Nardelli (2014), are found in vast rainforests, cloud forests, and swamps favourable for the survival. The habitat has rendered to the animal to possess a reddish-brown hair covers to enable it to survive in such wet, cold environs.

What Restrict Rhinos’ Present Range

According to an article on SaveTheRhino (n.d.), at one point the white Rhinos back in the early 1900s were becoming extinct with as low as 50 of them were available. Right now according to the article on SaveTheRhino (n.d.), the species has recorded a minimum of 19,666 and a maximum of 21, 085 of these animals being conserved specifically in South Africa. Black rhinos approximately 5,458 of them and the Javan and Sumatran recording the least number of 67 and 80 follow them consecutively. These range of their existence of the last two species of Javan and Sumatran rhinos are restricted by human activities such as cultivation of their habitats and numerous cases of poaching for their horns. Human-centred interferences have rendered the range of the species to remain constant for decades now with most of them being conserved in national parks such as Ujung Kulon National Park and others managed by single individuals.

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Ecological Function of the Rhinos

Rhinos like elephants are large mammals and they influence their environment greater than other creatures. According to Cromsigt and Beest (2014), rhinos are one of the few mega-herbivores or rather plant eaters that weigh more than 900 kilograms, meaning they take large quantities of food. They influence the ecosystem by pushing over trees and stomping on shrubs paving the way to numerous other diverse plants in the ecosystem a per Nuwer (2014) discovery. Short plants such as shrubs and grass are extensively used to approximate the diversity of plants in Africa. Thus areas inhabited by rhinos have extensive other herbivores such as antelopes, zebras, and gazelles due to increased diversity of other plants that they can feed on.

How the Range has changed over time

Most of Africa, Asia, and Europe were covered in dense forest and savannah grassland. The number of rhinos was predominantly huge as there were enough shrubs and trees to feed the large numbers according to Baraniuk (2015). Grasslands started to replace trees and shrubs, thus rendered them to travel to find trees and shrubs to feed on. The vast range of rhino species that existed started to diminish when climatic conditions such as droughts affected their survival as identified by Brook et al (2014). The increase in humans also started to displace and hunt them to develop tools with their bones, reducing significantly the rhino species. Right now, Nuwer (2014) argues that there only exist five species of rhinoceros, and still diminishing as they are hunted for their horns. At one point less than 50 white rhinos migrated to South Africa, where they survived and has been identified to increase in numbers since 1986 to 5000. Those found in Asia specifically the Indian and the Sumatran rhinos have been identified to reduce to less than a hundred and only 60 Javan rhinos left in the world.

Effective Means to Conserve Rhinos

Poaching has been the greatest threat to the survival of the rhino species. Thus, according to WitsVuvuzela (2015), as technology advances, it is crucial to beef up security by use of electric fences, using chips to track rhinos and use of drones to survey the area where these animals are located.

Recommendation for Conserving Rhinos

There is a need to boost the number of rhinos such as the Sumatran, Indian and Javan rhinoceros species since they are the blink of extinction. A program has to be formulated to focuses on boosting and benefiting communities around the rhino reserves, by increasing their fertility. This would halt the worries of the species diminishing from the face of the earth.

Conclusion

The rhinoceros is one of the five surviving species of odd-toed ungulates in the family of Rhinocerotidae. It is made up of five species namely, the white, blank, Indian, Javan, and Sumatran rhinoceroses. They have a weight ranging between 800 and 1600 kilograms, some having two, others one and other lack horns on the upper part of the snout. They have been located across East, Central North and South of Africa, mainly the black and white rhinos with white being the dominant species. Sumatran, Juvan and Indian rhinos are located in Asia where they are the least number of less than a hundred almost facing extinction. They inhabit savannah, forests, in swamps and muddy wallows. They have been important in influencing the increase in species of plants essential for the survival of other herbivores. Rhinos have been restricted by human activities and climatic changes in increasing in numbers. However, technological advancement has been applied to protect the few remaining species. Finally, programs are supposed to be put up to foster the increase of the species that are almost becoming extinct.

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References

  • Baraniuk, C. (2015). The story of rhinos and how they conquered the world. [online] Bbc.com. Available at:
  • Brook, S.M., Dudley, N., Mahood, S.P., Polet, G., Williams, A.C., Duckworth, J.W., Van Ngoc, T. and Long, B., 2014. Lessons learned from the loss of a flagship: The extinction of the Javan rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus from Vietnam. Biological Conservation, 174, pp.21-29.
  • Cromsigt, J.P. and Beest, M., 2014. Restoration of a megaherbivore: landscape‐level impacts of white rhinoceros in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Journal of Ecology,102(3), pp.566-575.
  • Dollinger, P. and Geser, S., 2007. Black Rhinoceros. World Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved, pp.10-09.
  • Groves, C.P., Fernando, P. and Robovský, J., 2010. The sixth rhino: a taxonomic re-assessment of the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros. PLoS One, 5(4), p.e9703.
  • InternationalRhinoFoundation (2018). Javan Rhino. [online] International Rhino Foundation. Available at:
  • McNeel, R., 2015. Rhinoceros. NURBS modleing for Windows:
  • Nardelli, F. 2014 The last chance for the Sumatran rhinoceros?. Pachyderm 55: 43-53
  • Nuwer, R. (2014). Here’s What Might Happen to Local Ecosystems If All the Rhinos Disappear. [online] Smithsonian. Available at:
  • Panda, Sasmita; Panigrahi, Gagan Kumar; Padhi, Surendra nath (2016). Wild Animals Of India. Anchor Academic Publishing
  • Patrick Lee (2015). "Sumatran Rhino vanishes from M'sian jungles". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 24 April 2016
  • SaveTheRhino (n.d.). Rhino populations | Rhino Facts | Save the Rhino International. [online] Save The Rhino. Available at:
  • Skinner, John D. & Chimimba, Christian T. (2005). The Mammals Of The Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press. p. 527. ISBN 978-0-521-84418-5.
  • WitsVuvuzela (2015). 5 ways to save the rhino. [online] Wits Vuvuzela. Available at:
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