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You are on a game drive and you gaze upon clusters of grey mass in the distance which you think are massive rocks and all of a sudden you see them move. You see beautiful grey horns appear and you realise that what you are looking at is, in fact, the second largest African land animal, the White Rhinos (also known as the square-lipped rhino). One by one, you see rhinos making their way through the African bush. You see them moving faster and all of a sudden they are running into the sunset. They call a group of rhinos a crash…if you have ever heard them running, you will understand why.
Have you ever wondered where they got the name ‘White Rhino’ from? Their name is thought to have originated in South Africa. A few different theories exist about why they are called ‘White’. One relates to what they have been rolling around in around the Cape, where people from all over the world originally immigrated to, there are areas with calcrete pans which can be white in colour, so after a nice dust bath or wallowing in these pans, their skin would appear to be white. Rhinos can appear to change colour depending on the varying types of mud they have been rolling around in, they are in fact still grey. Another popular theory is that the Afrikaans word ‘wyd’ (pronounced ‘vaid’) which means ‘wide’, refers to the width of the rhino’s mouth, however; early English settlers misinterpreted this word to sound like white and the name white rhino was born.
Here are some other interesting facts you may find interesting about this incredible animal:
- In Ancient Greek, the name rhinoceros means ‘nose horn’.
- There are five different rhino species. In Africa, we have the Black and White Rhino. In Asia, you find the Sumatran, Javan and Indian rhino.
- The rhinoceros’ species have been around for over 50 million years.
- Rhinos once roamed throughout North America and Europe. Around 30 000 years ago humans in southern France were painting images of rhinos in a cave that is now known as Chauvet Cave.
- White rhinos need to spend about 50% of their time feeding on grass in order to give them enough calories to support their bodies large bodies.
- You will occasionally find rhinos munching on soil termed ‘geophagia’. Similar to humans taking vitamin supplements, they do this to absorb extra minerals that may be lacking in their all grass diet.
- Despite their enormous size and bulkiness, white rhinos can run as fast as 40 km per hour.
- Believe it or not, rhinos are relatives of animals like horses and zebras.
Every time I see these impressive animals, I can’t help feeling a little bit sad. With rhino horn valued more than cocaine, South Africa is losing approximately three rhinos a day due to illegal poaching. It’s sad to think that if we continue to lose them at this rate, that rhinos could become extinct and that my young niece and nephew, may never have the chance to marvel at them the way that I get to. I am however feeling hopeful that we as an environmental society are working hard towards preserving these special animals.