Rhinoceros have only one predator, humans, who hunt them for their hooves, blood, urine, and above all, for their horns. Historically rhino horn has been used in traditional medicines throughout China, and more recently as a status symbol amongst wealthy businessmen and women in Vietnam. The horns are also used to make ornamental handles for traditional Jambiya daggers, worn by young men in Yemen as a symbol of their wealth, and their transition from childhood to adulthood.
There are five different species of rhino: the black and white rhino, the Javan, Sumatran and Indian, or Greater one-horned rhino. Three of the five remaining rhino species are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN red list). The Greater one-horned rhino is classed as vulnerable, while the Southern white rhinoceros, which can be found grazing on the savannah at Werribee Open Range Zoo is classed as near threatened.
There are thought to be just over 20,000 Southern white rhinoceroses remaining in the wild – they are faring the best of the five surviving rhino species. Unfortunately loss of habitat and poaching continue to be a serious problem, and the survival of rhinos as a species is threatened as conflict between humans and wildlife, including the demand for rhino horn continues.
The Southern white rhinoceros is predominantly found in South Africa. It is the largest of the five rhino species and is also known as the ‘square-lipped rhinoceros’ because of its wide, straight upper lip that enables it to graze. It is seldom aggressive and is the most sociable of the five rhino species. Bulls are more vocal, making snorting, bellowing and trumpeting sounds.
Wallowing in mud is an important behaviour for young rhino calves to learn from the adults as the mud has protective properties for the rhinos’ thick skin: it serves as a sunscreen, insect repellent and antiseptic lotion to heal small wounds.
Both the male and female Southern white rhino have two horns, the front one reaching lengths of up to 150cm. An adult male weighs approximately 2.3 tonnes and a female weighs about 1.8 tonnes. The average birth weight for a newborn Southern white rhino is between 60kg – 70kg. The gestation period, or length of pregnancy for a female rhino is generally between 15 to 16 months.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is an important member of the regional breeding program for the conservation of the Southern white rhinoceros.
Your visit to the Zoo helps to fight species extinction. Visiting Werribee Open Range Zoo offers not only an opportunity to see this awesome animal at close range, but also to learn about the Zoo’s conservation program Beads for Wildlife, which helps communities and wildlife in Africa.
Together we can improve animal care, reduce threatening processes and save endangered species.
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