Rhinoceros, Southern White


Ceratotherium simum simum


Large, neutral gray and almost hairless body; large head with two horns – the horn closest to the eyes is typically smaller; height – 5 to 6 feet at the shoulder; weight – 4,000 to 5,000 lbs.

Family

Rhinocerotidae

Order

Perissodactyla

Class

Mammalia

Range

Central and southern Africa

Habitat

Long and short grass savannas

Life Expectancy

40-60 years

Sexual Maturity

Females – 6 to 7 years; males – 10 to 12 years; in captivity, sexual maturity can be reached in a shorter period of time because

Diet

In the wild, they eat grasses and herbs. In the Zoo, they are fed apples, grain and hay.

Status

IUCN - Near Threatened, AZA - SSP

Behaviors

The white rhinoceros is the most social of the five species of rhinos. Immature individuals may pair up or form larger groups. Sexually mature females lacking calves frequently join them or accept the company of one or more of these immature rhinos. In this way persistent groups numbering up to seven individuals may be formed. Larger groups may form around favorite resting areas or feeding areas. Females move over home ranges covering 3.5 to 5.8 square miles with temporary extensions when food and water supplies run out. These home ranges overlap extensively with other female ranges, and there is no indication of territoriality among females. When females do meet, they engage in “friendly” nose-to-nose” meetings. Sub-adults will approach adult females, calves and immatures for nose-to-nose meetings and playful wrestling matches. Males are typically solitary and territorial. They fight by jabbing one another with upward blows of their horns. One or more subordinate males may reside within a dominant male’s territory. Subordinate males do not spray urine, scatter their dung or try to consort with any receptive females. When confronted by the dominant male, the subordinate male utters load roars and shrieks. Females use similar roars to warn off males that approach too close. These confrontations are usually brief. But, if an intruding subordinate male is found by the holder of the territory, a more prolonged and tense confrontation may ensue which may climax with a vicious fight. Access by males to receptive females is controlled by the strict territorial system. Prime breeding males occupy mutually exclusive areas covering 200 to 650 acres. These males form consort attachments to any females coming into heat that they encounter. The male endeavors to confine the receptive female within his territory for 1-2 weeks until she is ready for breeding. If, however, she crosses the boundary into neighbor’s territory, the male will not follow. When two dominant male’s meet at their neighboring boundaries, they stare silently at one another, horn to horn. Then they back away and wipe their horns on the ground. This ritual confrontations may be repeated several times or for up to an hour before they move apart and return to the heart of their domains. The point at which this ceremony takes place is the common boundary between their respective territories. All rhinos are basically water dependent, drinking daily from small pools or rivers. But under arid conditions, both African species can survive for periods of 4 to 5 days between waterhole visits. Rhinos are also dependent on waterhole visits for wallowing. The African species more commonly can roll completely over to acquire their mud coat. The mud helps to protect the rhino from biting flies and parasites. It can also act as a sunscreen. Despite the thick skin, blood vessels lie just under the thin outer layer.

Adaptions

White rhinos are grazing herbivores and need a large daily intake to support their massive size. Their broad lips give them a large bite area, enabling them to obtain an adequate rate of intake from the short grasses they favor for much of the year. Vision is poor in rhinos, however acute senses of hearing and smell make up for their lack of good eyesight.

Special Interests

The genus name Ceratotherium comes from the Greek cerato, meaning “horn”, and therium, meaning “wild beast.” The species name simum comes from the Greek simus, meaning “flat-nosed.” Folklore: The name of the “white” rhino and of its “black” rhino counterpart tends to be misleading. These names probably arose from the local soil color that had tinted the first specimens seen. Another story often retold on this subject cites a mistranslation as the culprit for the misnomers. Upon arriving in Africa, early Dutch explorers described the white rhino as having a wide upper lip. “Wide” in Dutch (weit) was pronounced “wheat” and mistranslated as “white.” The white rhino’s wide upper lip enables it to graze.

Folklore

Conservation

Today in Africa there are estimated to be over 8400 Southern white rhinos surviving, more than all of the other four subspecies of rhinos combined. South Africa’s decades of intense conservation has preserved this subspecies as over 8,000 can be found in that country today. The Northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cotoni), however, is critically endangered. There are only 25 remaining worldwide.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Southern white rhinos have been on exhibit here since the first pair arrived in April 1967. A dozen births have occurred here making the Jacksonville Zoo one of the more successful white rhino producers. Today those born here can be found around the world in the United States, Germany, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia.

Exhibit

East African Exhibit Area