The Black Rhinoceros, also known as Hooked-lipped Rhinoceros and Diceros bicornis, is a rhino species that is indigenous to eastern and southern Africa. Although commonly referred to as “black,” the color of this species ranges from brown to grey. They are smaller compared to the other two African rhino species. What differs the Black Rhino from the others are its hooked upper lip and ability to browse rather than graze.
This rhinoceros species was first described by Swedish botanist and father of modern taxonomy Carl Linnaeus back in 1758 in his “Systema naturae.”
Overall, the Black Rhinoceros is classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The Black Rhinoceros has seven or eight subspecies in total, with three of its subspecies, including the Western Black Rhinoceros have gone extinct in 2011. Aside from the Western Black Rhinoceros, Its subspecies are as follows:
Southern Black Rhinoceros – Considered the largest among subspecies, this was once abundant in South Africa and southern Namibia. It was declared extinct in 1850.
North-eastern Black Rhinoceros – Now extinct, this was previously abundant in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Eritrea.
Chobe Black Rhinoceros – Now nearly extinct, this species is present in Angola, Namibia, and Botswana.
Uganda Black Rhinoceros – This subspecies lives in Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan.
Eastern Black Rhinoceros – Back in the day, they were present in Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Sudan. Now, they have a limited range in Kenya and Tanzania.
South-central Black Rhinoceros – Known as the widely distributed subspecies, its population ranges from northeastern South Africa to Tanzania and southeastern Kenya.
South-western Black Rhinoceros – This subspecies lives in the desert and semi-desert in Namibia and Angola.
The Black Rhinoceros’ seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: D. bicornis
The physical description of a Black Rhinoceros
The Black Rhinoceros’ color ranges from yellow-brown to dark-brown and grey. Its color is highly dependent on the soil conditions of its habitat. It has naked, hairless skin all over, except for the short, fringe hair on the ears.
An adult Black Rhinoceros has a shoulder height from 1.4 to 1.8 m and a head and body length from 3 to 3.75 m. It weighs between 800 to 1400 kg. The tail length is 0.7 m. Male Black Rhinos are usually larger than females.
It has two horns made of keratin: one anterior and one posterior. The anterior horn measures 42 to 128 cm, while the posterior horn is 20 to 50 cm. Occasionally, Black Rhinos develop a small third posterior horn. Female rhinos usually have longer and thinner horns than males.
The distribution and habitat of Black Rhinoceroses
Black Rhinoceroses occur widely in Africa, from central to southern Africa, particularly in Angola, Kenya, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. They take refuge in various habitats such as deserts, grassland savannahs, and forests. They prefer habitats that have nearby water sources.
The Black Rhinos’ population started declining in the 20th century because European hunters killed them. Between 1960 and 1995, the population declined dramatically by 98%. Since then, local government in the continent exhausted conservation efforts to save them. From less than 2,500 individuals back in 1995, today, their present population is around 5,450 individuals.
The behavior of a Black Rhinoceros
This rhino species prefers to live solitarily, especially males, until it is time for mating. Female Rhinoceros usually stay with their offspring as a family unit. Female Rhinos without young would join another family.
Black Rhinoceroses live a sedentary lifestyle—they stay in one general area, wherein they sleep around in the middle of the day while hunt and eat during mornings and evenings. While fleeing from an intruder, a Black Rhino will release a series of snorts, curl its tail, and then calms down. After a while, curiosity will kick in, and it will begin to scan the area.
Adult Black Rhinoceroses use their feces and urine to communicate and mark their territories. When a male and a female meet, they will exhibit aggression. The less dominant of the two will usually retreat from violence.
The diet of a Black Rhinoceros
This rhino species is a browser—it feeds on woody shrubs, seeds, grains, nuts, small trees, twigs, legumes, grass, and other plants. Scientific studies have shown that they showcase a strong preference for Acacia species.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: